TrinaTracker Unlocks The Highest And Most Assured Long Term Energy Outcome For Our Clients – Andrew Gilhooly, Assistant Director, TrinaPro Business APAC, Trina Solar

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1. Could you give our readers a brief idea about Trina Bifacial + Tracker Solutions? 

Trina was first mover to large format modules and is unique in the industry in being the only module manufacturer to provide an integrated PV and tracker solution.  Accordingly, we had earlier visibility than any of our module and tracker competitors and understand the complexities and engineering challenges in successfully accommodating these large format modules into a single axis tracker structure in a fashion that is unequivocally structurally sound (with extensive independent verification from world leading wind consultancies RWDI and CPP) yet has been value engineered to optimise costs in the capex sensitive Indian market.  With a highly bankable track record approaching 7GW of trackers over the best part of the past decade with some of the planet’s largest IPPs and EPCs, and backing from the public listed Trina parent company by way of after sales support and warranty, only TrinaTracker unlocks the highest and most assured long term energy outcome for our clients.  Please note however that TrinaTracker is also available for projects using modules from manufacturers other than Trina.

2. What are the differentiating features of Trina’s single axis trackers?

TrinaTracker boasts a number of points of difference over our competitors.  Firstly, through the integrated design, every last engineering detail has been rigorously validated to optimise long term reliability and energy performance, such as how the modules physically integrate into the structure with minimal structural shading on the underside of the bifacial modules.  This provides Single point accountability and eliminates blame shifting between different stakeholders if there are any performance or reliability issues in service and provides a lower technology risk profile as compared to traditional disaggregated procurement models where modules come from one company and trackers from another.

Secondly, our longer time spent evaluating and iterating our full scope aero elastic wind tunnel testing on both our 1P dual row Agile and 2P single row Vanguard models informed our thinking that we needed to pivot to a multiple point drivetrain concept to guard against second order dynamic issues (the propensity of which increase with the larger module form factor and longer strings, up to  forty modules in a string with Trina’s low voltage 210mm wafer Vertex modules).  The multiple points of driving act to break up the accumulation of torsional strain along the tracker tube and structure and increase the structural natural frequency to a level far in excess where wind induced dynamic phenomena could pose a risk.

Finally, TrinaTracker is the only solution on the market with the backing of a renewable industry major like the publicly listed Trina parent company.  With the big brother and balance sheet of the Trina parent standing behind the tracker solution, we find our clients, especially those that take the long term view and Build-Own-Operate are much more comfortable in making the transition from traditional fix tilt to single axis tracker in markets where trackers are not yet ubiquitous, like India.

3. How TrinaPro trackers are designed to reduce risks, boost energy production and enable LCOE reduction for utility scale applications?

TrinaTracker can provide our intelligent tracker controller (known as SuperTrack) which utilises machine learning functionality to maximise yield, and has been independently verified by CGC Group to deliver more than 3% more kWh/kWp on typical sites through optimising tracking angle with respect to bifacial performance in heavy cloud cover, and up to 8% on sites with highly variable terrain.  Furthermore there is a “value stacking” effect where the yield boost from bifacial modules is more pronounced than on fixed tilt.

From a construction perspective, for regions with unconstrained land with lower acquisition cost encourages deployment at a low GCR with wide pitch, this uses more land per unit plant capacity and increases geotechnical and civil risk.  Trina Tracker requires fewer foundations, as low as 100 piles per MW DC, which mitigates risks on unforeseen costs for piling and foundations, pre drilling and so forth as well as deliver considerably more in construction savings as compared to the small cost premium on the tracker.  Furthermore, our trackers enable industry leading slope tolerance (up to 30% in any direction with our 2P Vanguard) which greatly mitigates risks around unforeseen civils works, cut and fill and so forth.  So it is important to work with a tracker partner who can mitigate these two key construction risks and unlock a lower construction cost.

Regarding O&M, TrinaTracker has an extensive track record over the best part of a decade in all key global markets.  We have cultivated a rigorous vendor qualification program to ensure high quality of all critical tracker components to enable typical tracker uptime in excess of 99%.  And with trackers the cost of module cleaning with our robotic cleaning solutions, coupled with wider less impeded access between the rows facilitates more cost effective vegetation management, meaning the typical full scope O&M cost is equivalent or not too dissimilar to fix tilt systems.

So for higher energy typically in excess of 20% more kWh/kWp as compared to fix tilt systems for same capacity, with competitive tracker supply pricing, lower construction costs and similar O&M opex, we see the combination of tracking and bifacial modules as unlocking lowest LCOE as compared to fixed tilt solutions.

4. Where do Trina’s tracking systems make the most sense?

For trackers, we see the best economic outcome being attained in regions with a high Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) Solar Resource.  That said, while traditionally with monofacial modules the economic returns were not as favourable for trackers in tropical equatorial regions with high solar altitude and a sustained period of the year with heavy cloud cover, we find the value stacking synergy of bifacial modules on trackers can restore the yield advantage of trackers back towards 20% or more kWh/kWp as compared to fixed tilt for same DC capacity.

What is interesting in an India specific context is we have compared trackers and bifacials at 125% DC to AC overdrive to fixed tilt monofacial at the more common 150% overdrive.  What we found is that even in consideration of cost of land, higher cost of tracker with additional loading for non domestic steel duty, an onerous adder for O&M opex even though we are confident O&M opex is similar for tracker and fix tilt, and a more than one cent premium on bifacial as compared to monofacial, is that in the same footprint and same MW AC capacity the tracker delivers 8% more energy on an absolute MWh per year basis and a lower LCOE by more than 13% – this is because with the tracker the DC capacity is 14% lower, driving an overall capex reduction of more than 8%.  We expect this to remain while PV price remains high and especially so as the industry in India moves on to post BCD exemption next year

5. Please brief about your recent order and your plans for Indian Market in near future.

Since the end of last year we have been closely supporting a number of large IPPs in India and expect to close our first orders for tracker in India before the end of Q2.  Many of these customers are conveying a real urgency to us for the need to procure, install and monitor the tracker performance in the field to determine if they proceed with trackers for their larger project portfolios so that procurement can conclude in sufficient time ahead of the changes to BCD next year.  Our largest market in APAC outside of China is still Australia where more than 80% of utility projects utilise trackers, but we expect given the much larger size of the overall utility market in India coupled with the recent change in sentiment there towards trackers to rapidly establish India as our joint largest market in the region.  Accordingly we are rapidly growing the team there to ensure unrivalled customer service at every stage of your project’s lifecycle, from Pre Sale to Execution and on into After Sale/O&M.  We are also currently evaluating localised procurement of certain components to overcome any applicable tariffs for non domestic steel.

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