Faced with high electricity rates, Halifax, Nova Scotia estate owner Stephen Mildenberger tapped solar developer Aartha Group of Surrey, British Columbia to develop a Mechatron M18KD gearless dual-axis tracker project because the patented system has proven to be far more robust in extreme weather than gear-based tracker designs common in the industry. This is the first Mechatron Solar dual-axis tracker installed North of the 39th parallel.
“Canada has preposterous weather swings in terms of both temperature and wind, so it’s not easy to build out transmission and distribution networks. As a result, microgrids like this one are the most economical solution for the region, including Northern U.S. states,” says Jay Vaishnav, the vice president of Aartha Group. “While other tracker technology hasn’t worked north of the 39th Parallel, the Mechatron tracker, with its near-vertical positioning capability — enabling snow shedding, and its very high reliability at 99.97% is a perfect fit. Other manufacturers’ designs have elevated incidences of shattered gears when they are exposed to our low temperatures and high wind loads.”
The M18KD tracker used in the project hosts 90 Canadian Solar bifacial panels generating 390 Watts each, along with 90 Hoymiles microinverters, yielding 35.1 kW DC. The bifacial panels will help capture the highly reflected light albedo – over 90% – during the snow season. Until snow falls, the grey gravel substrate of the tracker site is still adding substantially to the yield.
“We’re already seeing a boost of 13.6% from the bifacial panels, on top of the 35% gain that the tracker normally provides compared to a fixed-tilt installation with the same number of panels, yielding close to a 50% overall gain,” says Mildenberger.
The 35 kW of energy produced by the system will provide the vast majority of the electricity demand for the estate, including enough to operate an EV charging station. Overall, the system will generate 70,000 kWh/year, resulting in a first year savings of $11,000 from net metering. The installation will be enhanced with battery storage and a microgrid control system.
Over the last 12 years Mechatron’s next generation gearless ball-bearing tracker design has demonstrated unparalleled operational stability and resilience operating continuously across widely varied site conditions.
The M18KD tracker also has demonstrated a very long Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and less than one day in average Mean Time To Repair (MTTR). This performance represents the highest uptime in the solar tracking industry as well as the lowest maintenance cost over the duration of the project lifespan. As a result, the Return on Investment for a Mechatron tracker is often less than four years.
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