Maintenance requirements are minimal. Throughout the 25 year design life, the tracking system should be serviced 3-5 times, or when performance of the skybox batter begins to diminish
Each array is mounted with our V0100 vertical axis tracker atop a steel mast. The mast bolts to a concrete froundation a few inches below ground level. The foundation can be poured and mounting studs set in the required pattern without regard to final mast orientation. Through a unique base design, the mast can be clocked as required upon install
Our system has been developed with the small farm and 1-2+ acre residence in mind. Arrays are typicall spaced about 30 ft apart to minimize shading, but this varies by site layout and customer requirements
As with any PV generation system, regular cleaning of the modules helps keep them near peak performance.
In addition to fast shedding of ice and snow, another convenient consequences of our relatively steep array angle is that cleaning using a hose and squeegee is much easier than roof mount or ground based systems.
SIMPLE MECHANICAL DESIGN HELPS KEEP THE TRACKER RELIABLE AND VERY COMPACT
The tracker operates very quietly and inconspicuously.
The V0100 tracker is controlled using our proprietary directional sun sensor in harmony with a timing device.
The proprietary SunTracker features a rugged slipping joint in the gearbox which allows stiff wind or other strong forces to move the array without damaging the tracker.
SunTracker Northwest installations consist typically of two PV arrays, each with eight 60-cell modules for a total of around 4.7kW peak power output
Tracker operation is very simple and requires no technical knowledge or special tools.
The V0100 Tracker has a low parts count through a holistic mechanical design approach. We avoided shortcuts in design where off-the-shelf components meant a compromise in material, dimensional tolerance, or complexity. We build all gears and chassis parts with simplicity and service life as the primary goal, and along with a careful design approach to sealing and lubrication, these afford a 25-year design life.
Service includes replacing the Skybox battery, greasing the main spindle bearing using a common grease gun, and changing the oil. The tracker features conventional drain and fill plugs for oil changes and uses automotive grade oil. Even mounted on our tallest mast, the tracker can be accessed using a 4ft or 6ft step ladder.
The lower portion of the tracker (gearbox with all electronics) can be quickly unbolted and replaced by hand by a single person. The load-bearing upper portion of the tracker (spindle) is structurally simple and contains only two robust bearings supporting the solar array.
At Washington' latitude, vertrical axis tracking alone can capture 95.3% of the power of the dual-axis ideal figure, but with half the mechanical cost and complexity.
The V0100 tracker is powered by it's own small solar PV modules which maintain a small battery. These form the power unit (Skybox) which is fully self-contained and independent From the PV generation system and from the power grid.
Our racking systems feature elevation angle adjustability, and are typically fixed precisely at a full-year optimum angle based on site latitude. seasonal elevation adjustments yield only about a 1.2% increase in solar power production over a full year at Washington's latitude. These numbers come from our own analysis, and power production data collected by our locally installed systems has been consistent with these findings, with a typical 35-40% gain over ideally oriented fixed modules
Modular tracker design affords easy replacement or upgrading of the tracker assembly if ever required.
The mast also supports the AC disconnect box and neatly conceals the AC ower lines.
The array then returns to the sun's position at the next movement interval. This feature also makes forced manual movement of the array possible if the need should ever arise due to other activity around the array
Basic operational data such as time 'till next movement, and battery health are available anytime through visual signals.
An indicator on the side of the tracker can be viewed from the ground and provides any information the user might want through intuitive cycling LED signals.
The Skybox is able to operate in perpetual overcast conditions when required. The Skybox also houses our light sensor, and is mounted inconspicuously
between two of the large PV modules near the top
of the array.
Upon installation, the tracker is calibrated (in about 2 minutes) for it's installed orientation. The tracker will then locate the sun at the first opportunity following any reconnection of the Skybox to the tracker. Accurate tracking will begin immediately if the Skybox is plugged into the tracker with the array having been pointed roughly toward the sun manually.
The array moves on scheduled intervals and remains pointed at the sun throughout the day regardless of cloud cover. At minimum, a 40 minute period of direct sun every 3 weeks is enough to keep the array in tune with the sun, ready to take full advantage of brief rays. At dusk, the array returns to the point of sunrise and is inactive until dawn. Throughout the seasons, the tracking azimuth range adapts to the shifting points of sunrise and sunset.
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