Do Solar Trackers and Bifacial Modules Make Sense for Community Solar C&I Projects?

The California State Assembly recently passed a bill to significantly expand community renewable energy in the state, including community solar farms. According to the bill, the California Public Utility Commission has until March 31, 2023, to open proceedings to establish a community renewable energy program. The California bill follows in the wake of other legislation enabling community solar at the federal, state, and local levels. 

With the nation’s largest solar market now poised for a surge in community solar farms, these mid-sized 1-20 MW projects offer a promising route for smaller solar installers to join the multi-MW club

Installers who intend to grow their businesses into larger community solar projects might quickly find that sticking with what works for rooftops doesn’t always translate to ground-mount systems. So as installers take this big step, new questions pop up frequently, like: Does it make sense to use a tracker for a C&I project? Do bifacial modules really make a difference?

The answer to both questions is yes — in the right circumstances. Let’s look at how community solar C&I projects can benefit from solar trackers and bifacial modules.

Benefits of Solar Trackers and Bifacial Modules for Community Solar

Solar trackers keep PV modules aligned with the sun throughout the day, while bifacial modules harvest light from both sides of the panel. Skeptics of trackers and bifacial modules cite the higher initial material and components costs, a more complicated and prolonged procurement process, or an increased chance of weather-related damage. However, these complaints fall to the wayside with proper modeling, optimized site design, high-quality components, and experienced partners. 

In particular, bifacial modules on solar trackers can prove helpful for community solar farms. Studies consistently show that bifacial modules on solar trackers can provide notable power gains compared to monofacial systems, especially in winter when snow is on the ground. 

In a 2019 study of bifacial modules on trackers, the authors concluded that “[d]espite the additional costs of both bifacial modules and dual-axis tracker systems, we believe that bifacial tracker systems could be a viable option for northern latitudes.” Meanwhile, a recently published 2022 study showed similar results of bifacial modules providing notable gains compared to monofacial systems during winter.

The state-of-the-art TrinaTracker solution uses intelligent tracking and high-tech design that guarantees up to 15% greater energy yield while lowering a solar project’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE). The tracker’s sophisticated design allows for faster installations and better cable optimization. At the same time, additional savings arise from a substantial decrease in balance-of-system (BOS) costs, particularly for electrical cables and transportation.

Meanwhile, the recently launched SuperTrack smart tracker control monitoring system, part of the TrinaTracker solution portfolio, also provides extraordinary value by increasing energy production by up to 3%-8%, significantly boosting project ROI. When it comes to bifacial modules, SuperTrack’s Smart Tracking (STA) further optimizes power production in highly diffuse irradiance conditions based on the twelve different parameters included in the Trina Bifacial Irradiation Model. 

The TrinaTracker solution coupled with bifacial modules can be the differentiator needed to lower LCOE and boost value — enough to turn a community solar farm proposal from unprofitable to profitable.

Partner with Experienced C&I Solar Pros

While community solar farms can benefit from solar trackers and bifacial modules, EPCs and developers must optimize PV system modeling and site design to leverage these components effectively. There is a reason some skeptics claim the increased costs associated with trackers or bifacial modules don’t outweigh the benefits. A subpar site design or poor modeling can lead to a project where a corresponding boost in power gains doesn’t offset the higher costs.

Thankfully, Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions team provides the experience and expertise needed to optimize community solar projects for the best possible value. The solar pros on the C&I Solutions team help make jobs faster and easier by streamlining the procurement of major components and ensuring widespread component compatibility for rapid installations and a seamless interconnection. 

Then, add in the high efficiency and higher power gains achieved from combining bifacial modules on a solar tracker, and EPCs and developers can further lower LCOE.

Want to learn more about the benefits of solar trackers and bifacial modules for community solar C&I projects? Reach out to us today!

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