Blog Story

During Wild Storms, The Only Thing That Moves Across the New Ideematec Solar Tracker is Sunlight

29. September 2021

John Susa

Chief Sales Officer

 

Ideematec is engineering extreme-weather resistant solar trackers in an era of growing global climate catastrophes

We need a resilient and clean energy future.

Our world is facing growing risks of hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.

Wildfires, floods, coastal erosion, and extreme cold and heavy snowfall pose fundamental challenges to communities and essential energy infrastructure — like solar.

Global insurance losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters hit USD $83 billion in 2020 alone, according to Swiss Re Institute estimates. The insurer’s research showed:

  • Europe’s winter storms caused floods, power outages and transport disruption
  • Australian hail storms caused insured losses of more than USD $1 billion
  • Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal was India’s most destructive ever
  • and Canada experienced its costliest-ever hail event in Calgary.

Wild weather — and storms in particular— are a worry for any construction company, developer or financier pursuing a large-scale solar project today.

 

What extreme weather means for solar

These projects face several risks from storms. High winds can cause structural damage, resonant vibrations, aerodynamic instabilities and even total failure, because of poorly engineered solar trackers.

Solar projects also risk being hindered by the terrain, when there is flooding or heavy snow. Silt and other blockages can build up where there is little drainage on flatter surfaces. And high winds in dustier and dryer locations can also wear away solar trackers and modules — especially those with lots of small components and electrical wiring.

 

More certain solar projects

At Ideematec, we knew we needed to act on this.

Yes, the climate crisis is worrying. But the worsening outlook should only further motivate companies, communities and engineers to pursue reliable and robust solutions that will accelerate our path towards a resilient, clean energy future.

It’s possible. Solar-generated electricity briefly exceeded coal-generated electricity on Australia's main power grid for the first time recently. Low demand and sunny skies saw coal-fired power drop to an all-time low of 9315 megawatts, while solar provided 9427 megawatts.

Yes, extreme weather is clearly a concerning situation for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies. Ideematec wants to help you rise to the challenge. We know EPCs already face challenges sourcing affordable and skilled labor to develop solar projects and the right terrain to develop them on. The pandemic has squeezed supply chains too, which has only heightened uncertainty about construction timelines.

 

What if solar trackers could last until 2050?

This is the question we couldn’t stop thinking about.

We understand that the developers that fund ambitious solar projects want assurances the project can survive the ravages of extreme weather — that their investment in clean energy is safe. EPCs themselves are equally concerned about solar projects’ ability to endure in the decades to come. They want longevity that doesn’t come with outlandish operational and maintenance costs.

So does Ideematec.

 

Applying 12-years of German engineering expertise

Wind velocity is the most critical natural load when you have tracker solar plants. But it's our specialty at Ideematec. For the past 12 years our team of German engineering and design professionals have experimented across countless iterations of solar trackers to constantly strengthen the product.

Our new Horizon L:Tec solar tracker has 30 percent fewer components. It has 99.6 percent uptime. So far, we have seen far fewer things that can go wrong with these trackers. Even so, we’re developing an extended best-in-class warranty to back our performance claims.

Discover the new benchmark in solar tracking.

 

So how have we built trackers to withstand the extremities of our changing global climate?

We’ve pioneered a zero-degree stow position for the tracker. In snowy regions, that means we can apply the snow sensor. When volume of snow on top of the trackers hits a set threshold, the tracker turns and lets the snow slide off by itself.

 

Tracker stowage makes a difference during gusts

Why is stowage so important? Windstorm Ciara hit Europe in February 2020. The extratropical cyclone hit the British Isles and later mainland Europe with three-second wind gusts locally exceeding 130 kilometers an hour.

The wind direction changed over time as Ciara’s intensity weakened. On February 9, the average wind direction at three separate German weather stations was around 200 degrees and went to around 260 degrees the following day. It shows just how unstable the wind direction is during a storm and that the directions of strong gusts can vary greatly.

Solar trackers without zero-degree stowage that need to adjust their position during storms like Ciara face a high risk of failure. At Ideematec, we estimate our tracker’s zero-degree stowage reduces velocity pressure and stress for modules by up to 40 percent.

That could be the difference between failure and survival, if a solar site finds itself in the eye of a storm.

 

Meticulous testing and analysis

Before we built our trackers, we studied wind patterns, velocity and shear across a range of flat and sloped terrains. The trackers can bear the brunt of winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour. We know no two locations are the same and we know EPCs and developers are working with vastly different plant sites across the globe. That’s why we’re working to make even the most challenging landscapes viable for solar. Our trackers can be installed up to a maximum slope of 20 degrees, with no need for grading work on the site.

Measuring 190 metres long, the Horizon L:TEC is the longest solar tracker on the global market. The tracker integrates seamlessly with bifacial modules to generate more energy per tracker and accommodates extra-large modules and variable string length configurations.

 

Making solar projects more resilient

A recent PV Tech article reported that solar developers and operators are eager to weather-proof their systems to protect sites against climate risk. Some of the other benefits of Ideematec’s tracker for EPCs and developers who want to mitigate climate risk include:

  • Quicker installation time to decrease civil works
  • Less wear and tear, through our signature decoupled drive technology, which transports dynamic loads away from crucial gearboxes
  • Reduced maintenance costs, with four times fewer gearboxes and motors than conventional PV trackers
  • 40 percent less velocity pressure and stress on modules.

Yes, stormier times are on the way.

But smart design can help us mitigate worst-case scenarios, while we all work to prevent the climate crisis from worsening. At Ideematec, we’ll continue to respond to the increasing demand for trackers that are both fast to install and built to endure. As a one-product company, we’re staying focused on perfecting single axis tracker systems to rise to this challenge.

Discover the new benchmark in solar tracking.