Rise of bifacial lifts profits for the world’s tracker companies

Soltec tracker

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With the race on to double down on the price per Watt of solar power worldwide through the use of bifacial and other high efficiency PV panel technologies, solar tracker manufacturers are set for a bumper year, according to IHS Markit.

A research note published today by the market research company stated worldwide shipments of trackers topped 20 GW for the first time last year, with the technology incorporated into more than a quarter of large-scale solar projects for the first time.

That added up to a rise of more than 40% in global tracker shipments, with Spanish companies PV Hardware and NClave, Chinese manufacturer Arctech Solar and Italian business Convert Italia joining NEXTracker, Array Technologies and Soltec in the gigawatt club for annual volumes.

Profits on track

And there is more good news ahead, predicted IHS Markit senior analyst Camron Barati, who wrote: “The coming year will continue to be an exciting time for PV tracker suppliers as they continue to take advantage of tailwinds associated with the growing adoption of high-efficiency modules and bi-facial technologies, that will ultimately lower the dollar-per-Watt cost of PV tracking systems and improve the economic viability of the technology.”

With IHS predicting 74 GW of large-scale solar capacity additions worldwide this year, the research note pointed out the fastest growing tracker markets were in the Middle East and North Africa last year. The U.S. was again the world’s biggest tracker market, and the Americas accounted for more than half of global shipments with Mexico bullish, but there were also significant rises in shipment volumes to Australia, Egypt and Spain.

That booming market explains why bigger concerns have muscled in on the tracker segment, with NEXTracker – acquired by U.S. technology business Flex – and Trina Solar-owned NClave prime examples. Indian steel multinational ArcelorMittal has also followed suit, by acquiring French company Exosun.

NEXTracker was the world leader for tracker shipments for the fourth year in a row, with a 29% slice of the market, ahead of U.S. peer Array. Spain’s Soltec slipped two places to number five, with PV Hardware taking its place and Arctech unchanged at number four. NClave beat Convert Italia into sixth position but all the top ten suppliers – a list rounded out by Spain’s STI Norland, New York-based GameChange Solar and U.S. rival SunPower – posted year on year rises in shipments.