Clean Tech

Moving with the sun

M Ramesh | Updated on January 17, 2018

Changing direction The cost of trackers has come down and they are now easier to maintain SHUTTERSTOCK

The use of solar trackers is picking up fast in India

It was always expected to happen — it is happening now. Use of trackers — devices that keep solar panels facing the sun by following the trajectory of sun’s movement — is catching up fast in India.

Solar plants with trackers generate more electricity. Unlike earlier, solar power project developers, big and small, are taking to trackers in a big way. For instance, Hero Future Energies Ltd, one of the larger renewable energy companies in the country, has solar projects worth around 550 MW currently under construction; 450 MW of them are with trackers.

From practically nothing two years ago, India today has close to 1,000 MW of solar power plants that are equipped with trackers. While that is a small fraction of the 7,500 MW of solar installed in the country now, the use of these devices is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.

“The market (for trackers) is exploding,” says Shailesh Vaidya, CEO of the Pune-based start-up, Scorpius Trackers, which makes tracker systems. “For 2014-15, we had planned to do 5 MW; we did 50,” he says. The three-year-old company has signed MoUs worth 1,250 MW and has firm orders for 500 MW.

Illustrating the market growth, Shailesh says Scorpius’ turnover grew from ₹2.5 crore in 2014-15 to ₹17 crore in 2015-16 and is on track to reach ₹100 crore in the current year.

A tracker system costs about ₹50 lakh per MW of capacity, roughly 10 per cent more, but gives 17-20 per cent higher generation, depending upon where the plant is located. (Scorpius’ outsources most of the components, so its turnover is not 50 lakh times the MW capacity executed.)

While the economics have always favoured trackers, two major recent developments have enabled their adoption now, says Sunil Jain, CEO & Executive Director, Hero Future Energies.

First, cost of trackers has come down—by about 35 per cent. Second, unlike earlier, the modern machines have far fewer moving parts and hence are easier and cheaper to maintain.

For instance, Scorpius’ systems need no lubrication, run on locally-produced direct-current and are wireless-controlled from a central location—no cables running around the plant.

Also, earlier, ‘solar’ used to be confined to Gujarat and Rajasthan; today, it has spread to the South, where, because of geography, trackers make more sense.

Hence, 400 MW out of Hero Future Energies’ 550 MW under-construction plants are in Karnataka alone. Furthermore, today there are over a dozen tracker companies in the market. There are big ones like L&T and Mahindra, start-ups like Scorpius and the Hyderabad-based SmartTrak Solar, and foreign companies such as Sun Track and Next Tracker of the US and Power Way, Arch Tech and Patriot Solar of China. The combined marketing of all these companies has also helped deepen the market, points out Jain.

Published on July 05, 2016

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor