Research Papers

Assessment of the Energy Gain of Photovoltaic Systems by Using Solar Tracking in Equatorial Regions

[+] Author and Article Information
Freddy Ordóñez, Carlos Morales, Jesús López-Villada

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Escuela Politécnica Nacional,
Ladrón de Guevara E11-253,
Quito 170517, Ecuador

Santiago Vaca

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Escuela Politécnica Nacional,
Ladrón de Guevara E11-253,
Quito 170517, Ecuador;
Center for Energy and Environmental Sciences,
Nijenborgh 6,9747 AG,
Groningen 9700 AB, The Netherlands

Contributed by the Solar Energy Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF SOLAR ENERGY ENGINEERING: INCLUDING WIND ENERGY AND BUILDING ENERGY CONSERVATION. Manuscript received September 4, 2017; final manuscript received January 17, 2018; published online February 20, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Geoffrey T. Klise.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 140(3), 031003 (Feb 20, 2018) (7 pages) Paper No: SOL-17-1367; doi: 10.1115/1.4039095 History: Received September 04, 2017; Revised January 17, 2018

Solar tracking is a major alternative to increase the electric output of a photovoltaic (PV) module, and therefore, improves the global energy collected by PV systems. Nonetheless, solar-tracking PV systems require more resources and energy than static systems. Additionally, the presence of cloudiness and shadows from near buildings may reduce the profitability of these systems. Therefore, their feasibility must be assessed in order to justify their application. In equatorial latitudes, the sun's movement through the sky is in the zenith East–West axis. It may be advantageous, since the best tilt in such latitudes is the horizontal. In these terms, the main objective of this research is to numerically assess the performance of a PV array with solar tracking and under typical operation conditions in equatorial latitudes. For this, the assessment of the solar resource in Quito was analyzed in first place. Then, the comparison between three solar arrays was studied to evaluate the feasibility of solar tracking (two-axes tracking, horizontal one-axis tracking, and horizontal fixed). Additionally, the impact of cloudiness and shadows in the system was analyzed. The results showed that the horizontal one-axis tracking is the most beneficial option for equatorial latitudes as the two-axes tracking system only surpasses the gains of the one-axis tracking marginally. Furthermore, the use of a strategy to place the PV modules horizontally in cloudy conditions seems to be marginally advantageous. Finally, the shadows created from neighboring buildings in the East and West of the system may reduce considerably the solar irradiation on the PV-array (not the ones in the north and south).

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

DC energy produced for a horizontal fixed, horizontal one-axis tracking and two-axes tracking PV systems

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Annual losses by shadows coming from near buildings for a horizontal one-axis PV array in Quito




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