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Its an issue of capital cost and maintenance costs.

The economic problem with harvesting already available volatile renewable energy resources is that since there is no fuel cost, the bulk of the cost is capital costs. And much of the balance are maintenance costs that must be paid for the system to operate independent of the quantity of energy being harvested.

The widespread installation of solar power in favorable locations will reduce the cost of electricity, by reducing the periods that require the fire-up of peak power plants, so that the market clearing price will be coming from lower cost producers.

Anything that substantially increases the capital costs causes problems with the finance of the installation. And up-front costs are costs that get compound interest placed on top, relative to the refunding that takes place over time as the power is sold, or implicitly as the power replaced power that would have been bought.

Add in a need, if its a householder responsibility, to be able to get somebody in to maintain the tracking unit or, if its an organizational responsibility, to have a workforce of people trained to fix problems with tracking units, as well as secondary problems like wires fraying or working lose as a result of repeated motion stress on connectors.

... and tracking is not necessarily worth the cost.

Now, there are different types of tracking. There is path tracking, the most complex, there is horizontal tracking, which has a similar range of movement but is much simpler, and there is vertical tracking. And there is daily tracking and seasonal tracking, since the optimal fixed position is different at different times of year. And tracking can be active or time-based ... a household installation, the simplest tracking is having two settings for vertical angle and going up on the roof twice a year to shift the vertical angle, around spring and fall equinox

That's not to say that tracking shouldn't be evaluated, but it won't always be the optimal solution. In some cases, it may be better to simply buy more solar panels. And as the cost-efficiency of solar panels increases, and at a much more rapid rate than the cost-efficiency of tracking motors and the extra components to the framing, the number of installations for which tracking makes economic sense is likely to decline over time.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 11:41:00 AM EST
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