What is a solar tracker?

A solar tracker is a device that follows the sun as it moves across the sky. When solar trackers are coupled with solar panels, the panels can follow the path of the sun and produce more renewable energy for you to use.

Solar trackers are usually paired with ground mount solar systems but recently, rooftop-mounted trackers have come onto the market.

Typically, solar tracking equipment will be connected to the racking of the solar panels. From there, the solar panels will be able to move along with the movement of the sun.

The way a solar tracking system moves is dependent on the type of system it is. There are three types of sun tracking systems:

1. Manual solar trackers

Manual trackers require someone to physically adjust the panels at different times throughout the day to follow the sun. This isn’t always practical, as you need someone to constantly monitor the sun and change the position of the solar panel system.

2. Passive solar trackers

Passive trackers contain a liquid with a low boiling point that will evaporate when exposed to solar radiation. When the liquid evaporates, the tilt system becomes imbalanced. This imbalance causes the panels to tilt towards the direction of the sun’s rays.

3. Active solar trackers

Active trackers rely on motors or hydraulic cylinders to change position. The motors in active trackers will move the PV panels so they are facing the sun. While this is more convenient than manual trackers, the moving parts within the motors could easily break. This could lead to higher maintenance costs over the lifetime of the system.

From there, solar trackers can be categorized even further, based on which direction they move. A solar tracker can be either:

  • Single axis solar tracker
  • Dual axis solar tracker

Single axis solar tracker

Single axis trackers follow the position of the sun as it moves from east to west. These are usually used in utility-scale projects. A single axis tracker can increase production between 25% to 35%.

Dual axis solar tracker

This tracker not only tracks the sun as it moves east to west, but also follows it as it moves from north to south. Two axis trackers are more common among residential and small commercial solar projects that have limited space, so they can produce enough power to meet their energy needs.