Solar potential of tough terrain


From pv magazine India

Solar tracker adoption has picked up significantly in Indian PV installations. What are the key growth drivers?

Solar trackers help in optimizing and increasing energy production while reducing costs. Single-axis solar trackers generate up to 20% more energy than projects which use fixed-tilt systems that do not track the sun’s movement depending on site conditions. 

The use of modern technology in photovoltaic modules has made solar trackers indispensable, ensuring optimal energy output regardless of geographic location. Bifacial adoption is encouraging. Due to improved tracker design efficiencies, there is an upward trend for adopting solar trackers combined with bifacial module technology in India.

As per a recent report by Bridge To India, improvements in bifacial technology, falling cost premium over monofacial modules, and growing industry experience are finally leading to large-scale adoption of bifacial modules in India. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) gain for bifacial modules over monofacial modules with fixed-tilt structures and single-axis trackers is estimated at 1% and 6%, respectively. 

Currently, the domestically manufactured module capacity is not enough to meet the demand from solar projects. Solar trackers play a significant role in enhancing the yield by up to 20% and help developers and EPCs narrow the gap.  

How much capacity has Nextracker installed in India? 

Nextracker will have over five gigawatts of smart solar tracker systems deployed in India by the end of 2024, with 80% of the components locally sourced. The combination of Nextracker’s hardware and software solutions benefits customers by accelerating construction and generating more energy in rapidly changing atmospheric conditions. These technologies deliver improved solar project profitability and expand the geographic areas where solar is cost-effective. 

We are rapidly ramping up supply capacity to support the country’s ambitious solar goals of 280 GW by 2030 with ‘Made in India’ trackers. 

Land and changing weather conditions are major constraints for solar in India. Given these challenges, what’s your focus when developing PV trackers for the Indian market?

In India, the choice of solar trackers for PV projects is deeply influenced by the nation’s diverse terrain and unique environmental challenges. Nextracker has tailored specialized solutions for the Indian landscape, addressing critical concerns.

Nextracker’s latest innovation for undulating terrain doubles the capability of the popular NX Horizon XTR terrain-following tracker, which has been proven on dozens of utility-scale projects and in-use since 2019. 

NX Horizon XTR-1.5 significantly reduces and even eliminates earthwork on extreme terrain sites without requiring complex joints or additional components. It can save many tons of steel with shorter piles and thousands of cubic yards of cut and fill, with the benefits of accelerating construction schedules, minimizing environmental impact, and reducing project risk. 

Minimizing disturbance also prevents long-term soil erosion and preserves habitats, an essential factor when it comes to ease of permitting for new projects.

Popular content

Another innovation Nextracker is bringing to the market expands on the company’s yield optimization and control software TrueCapture with Zonal Diffuse, a new tracking capability that enhances energy generation during rapidly changing irradiance conditions on utility-scale sites. This new technology includes spatial resolution sensing and control algorithms, adjusting trackers to variations in cloud cover across the entire power plant.

Plants equipped with Zonal Diffuse can “chase clouds” for additional gains without compromising tracking performance during clear sky conditions. Zonal Diffuse complements TrueCapture’s terrain-adaptive row-to-row tracking mode and Split Boost, a tracking optimization algorithm for half-cell modules.

What are the key design considerations for installing solar trackers?

Effective solar tracker systems require careful consideration of module types, soil qualities, wind dynamics, and corrosion resistance. Trackers are optimized when they are tailored to the unique module parameters determined by the EPC/developer. Soil stability study informs foundation design while understanding local wind patterns ensures structural integrity. The use of corrosion-resistant materials protects the system from environmental wear, maintaining its durability.

Is tracker compatibility really an issue for PV installations using newer modules? 

Module design is the fundamental driver of tracker design. Nextracker systems are compatible and integrated with every Tier 1 module. We work closely with our partners to optimize the attachment and positioning of their modules into our smart solar tracking systems and collaborate on next-generation technologies in our R&D facilities. 

One of the most exciting recent innovations in PV module technology is the introduction of large-format modules. The big modules offer increased power density and a lower bill of materials at scale. Due to their oversized dimensions and additional weight, these powerful products present mechanical, electrical, and weather-related challenges, requiring specialized mounting configurations and optimization approaches. Every Tier 1 module company has certified Nextracker’s compatibility with their products.

Due to large-size projects, a shift towards robotic cleaning is being seen. Nextracker offers robotic cleaning compatibility. Our independent row architecture enables robots to move to adjacent sections to leverage 2 km or more of cleaning per robot charge.

How do you foresee the growth of the solar tracker market in India?

India’s solar tracker market appears to be extremely promising. The demand for solar energy is quickly increasing, fuelled by India’s ambitious target of generating 280 GW of solar power by 2030. Solar tracker systems are critical in this growth trajectory because they optimize the angle of solar panels, ensuring optimum sunlight exposure and significantly improving energy generation efficiency. This optimization is critical for long-term competitive Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE), making solar electricity an economically feasible option.

As India’s energy demand rises, solar energy, aided by enhanced tracker technology, is ideally positioned to supply this demand sustainably. Solar trackers not only increase energy production but also improve grid stability, making them essential in India’s changing energy scenario. 

Furthermore, the worldwide focus on renewable energy corresponds with India’s aim to lower carbon emissions, propelling the solar tracker industry forward. In essence, the combination of ambitious goals, the need for cost-effective solutions, and environmental sensitivity paints a bright future for solar trackers in India, emphasizing their importance in the country’s renewable energy path.

This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: