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Tracking technology allows solar panels to track the movement of sun and enhance its output efficiency by 20% to 40% as compared to a fixed solar PV array. Flat-panel photovoltaic (PV), Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) and Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) are some of the key technologies in the solar tracker market. Solar trackers have unique functionalities in each application such as minimizing the angle of incidence between the photovoltaic panel and incoming sunlight in PV applications and orienting the optics in CPV and CSP systems. Presently, CPV is one of the emerging technologies in the solar energy industry due to the benefits it offers. Low manufacturing cost of CPV technology assists in generating energy at low costs. Around 85% to 90% solar panels can be recycled due to usage of glass and aluminum as raw materials.
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Single axis and dual axis are two types of trackers installed worldwide. Single axis trackers have only one axis for rotation that could be horizontal, vertical, tilted or polar aligned moving from east to west over the course of a day. Dual axis trackers rotate in two axes, both east to west and vertically trapping maximum solar radiations. Single axis trackers are primarily used in solar PV systems due to their lower cost compared to dual axis trackers and high electricity output against fixed systems.
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Europe has high DNI (Direct normal irradiance 5.5kWh/m2) due to which solar trackers are one of the preferred renewable technologies used for energy generation. Dual axis solar trackers applications are expected to increase in CSP and CPV plants. Single axis is preferred in utility scale projects due to low installation cost and high efficiency. Single axis tracker systems accounted for more than 85% market share in 2010, compared to dual axis solar trackers. Reduction of few FIT rates and incentive schemes hindered the non-utility market in North America. This was compensated with a provision of government stimulus for the development of large solar tracker installations in the U.S. and Canada. The shifting focus towards utility scale projects is likely to fuel the market. Increased and upcoming CSP installations wherein dual axis trackers are widely preferred are expected to bolster the dual axis trackers market over the forecast period.
Europe dominated the market in 2010 and accounted for over 60% of the global annual installed capacity. Annulment of certain premium schemes and reduction of FIT (Feed in Tariff) rates hindered the European solar tracker market. Europe was followed by North America in terms of annual installed capacity and accounted for over 26% of the global annual installed capacity 2010. Spain, Germany, Italy and Greece were the key countries of solar tracker in Europe, together, accounting for over 60% of the Europe’s annual installed capacity. China and Spain are expected to register the fastest growth amongst all regions owing to the stimulus offered by the government for energy generation through renewable sources. Indian solar tracker market is expected to surge with substantial annual installations in Gujarat and Rajasthan over the forecast period.
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The solar tracker market is fragmented in nature however; a few companies have sustained their brand equity over the past couple of years by their global presence. Haosolar was the largest manufacturer of solar tracker in 2010 and accounted for over 23% of the market share by annual installed capacity. Abengoa Solar and SunPower were the next largest companies followed by others including Mecasolar, Energia Ercam, First Solar (Ray tracker) among others. Qbotix is gaining popularity with their invention of robotic devices that assist in the maintenance of the solar trackers during operation.