Welcome to Track to the Future, an Array Technologies podcast and your source for insight into how we're bringing engineered simplicity, relentless reliability and durable performance as a pioneer in solar tracking. Join us for industry trends, expert opinions and more lighting the way to a brighter, smarter future.
Retrofits and Upgrades for Utility-Scale Solar Plants
On this episode of Track to the Future from Array Technologies, host Tyler Kern and guests Ron Corio, Travis Rose and Sabah Mahmood explore a topic gaining serious traction in the world of utility-scale photovoltaic powerplants – retrofits and repowering. This increase in retrofit and repowering projects has been driven by the sheer amount of innovation in the solar energy industry. All components of a PV plant have felt the impact of these leaps in technology, from modules and storage to inverters, trackers and everything in-between. “Solar power plants evolve, and technology evolves,” Corio said. “There are a lot of different kinds of utility-scale systems out there, and some of them don’t perform as well as others. … There’s always an economic analysis to look at whether or not it makes sense to reinvest in a project and upgrade it.” By engaging in economically logical retrofit and repowering projects, PV plant operators can enjoy lower LCOE, increased yields, decrease in O&M costs and a plant that’s more on-par with the state-of-the-art ones being constructed today. At OCI Solar Power’s Alamo I solar farm, the decision to repower was made after just six years, with trackers being upgraded, bifacial modules installed and more. This improvement in overall operation aligns with Array’s mission of helping solar plants optimize every aspect of their production and operation and maximize project returns.
SmarTrack for Better Solar Tracking with Jon Sharp
The goal of any asset owner is to maximize that asset. With these words in mind, Jon Sharp, VP of Product Management for Array Technologies, popped by Track to the Future to talk about Array Technologies’ innovative solar tracking solution, SmarTrack. “Solar tracking software improves asset performance by attempting to put more light onto solar panels or solar modules and minimize the negative effects of the sun's shading,” Sharp said. “And SmarTrack is a product that further improves upon these traditional tracking algorithms and adds new ones to the mix to achieve that goal.” Utility-scale solar plants are much larger today than they were several years ago. To generate power on a large scale, they need all possible advantages and solar gathering improvements they can get. “For these types of power plants, improving performance, even a little bit or by a few percent, can add many millions of dollars of life to the asset,” Sharp said. “That amount of cash flow can make or break the ability to finance some of these projects.” When planning arrays, Sharp said it is essential to consider several factors. Start with a reliable and intelligent design, choose a location and terrain that is favorable for solar gathering, and pick a tracking system that works well with the particular site terrain. Also, Sharp said it's critical to use quality equipment that maximizes uptime. “Uptime is every bit as important, or even more important, than optimizing energy output with software or other techniques.” The best tracking software available isn’t going to do its job if the equipment isn’t high-quality.
Best Practices for Bifacial in Modeling Software with Jon Sharp and Kyumin Lee
On this episode of Track to the Future, host Tyler Kern was joined by Array Vice President, Product Management Jon Sharp and Director of Product Innovation Kyumin Lee to discuss the data-validated best practices for using bifacial solar cells at PV power plants.
Monofacial cells were the standard up until the last decade or so, when bifacial cells became more commercially viable.
While reports that bifacial cells boost energy yield by as much as 20-30% are exaggerated, a third-party test conducted by Array in conjunction with PV Lighthouse and CFV Solar found that a 5-10% yield increase was certainly realistic.
“One of the problems with the early days of bifacial testing was that the testing was done by research institutes and universities with small-scale setups. … All those things have resulted in very generous gain numbers in the order of 20 to 30%,” Lee said. “But what we are seeing now and what all the new modeling software are predicting is that for (large-scale installations), the number you should be expecting is in the range of 5 to 10%.”
As a result of this field-tested PV research project, best practices and data inputs have been established that can help utilities, designers, solar developers, and owner/operators more accurately calculate and model power yield across the lifecycle of a utility-scale PV power plant.
These best practices include things like optimal mounting height, width, spacing between rows, parameters to model performance in software solutions, and more that can help PV plants best understand their bifacial modules’ performance.
Further, modeling software like PVsyst can help these groups facilitate project planning and more confidently calculate yield, leading to more efficient bifacial modules and an understanding of how to get the most out of their potential.
“People want to know how to use and how to model bifacial technology,” Sharp said. “So, Array Technologies, in conjunction with (independent labs and modelers) has taken a systematic approach to answering those questions realistically with field data, as well as a modeling tool corroborated with PVsyst modeling.
“The conclusion is that PVsyst can be used with confidence. It’s a tool that will give accurate results if you put the correct information into it.”
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Great industry insights
Focused and fascinating look into what’s currently happening in solar technology. Really refreshing to hear useful, real-world applications.