RBI Solar (part of Gibraltar Industries) makes its living on steady fixed-tilt and carport solar projects. The company launched its own single-axis tracker, Sunflower I, in January 2019 after two and a half years of working with customers to deploy it. Fast-forward to today and RBI Solar has over 600 MW of single-axis trackers deployed across the United States, and is ready to hit the next level with Sunflower II – a single-axis sequel with some notable new features.
Hardware-wise, Sunflower II utilizes a patented Gearbox design to reduce foundation loads at all tracking angles while regulating motion at each foundation. This breakthrough engineering feature allows for lighter components to be used in the structure’s design, making for a simplified installation in the field.
The flexibility of the system’s design also allows for complete layout optimization. Sunflower II can accommodate any grade changes up to 15%, which can significantly reduce the amount of civil scope and time prior to construction.
Building on that, Sunflower II features four main areas of innovation to better serve the commercial single-axis tracker marketplace.
• Drivetrain Technology – The Drivetrain system connects the Gearboxes at the top of each foundation and carries the power from the Motor to rotate PV Modules throughout the day. The Drivetrain has been engineered to operate on undulating topography, ensuring that the Sunflower II system can operate on any grade changes up to 15 percent.
• Enhanced Communications & Controls – Each row of the Sunflower II system operates independently, so software upgrades to the Communications & Controls systems ensures every row is rotating in conjunction with one another. This accounts for backtracking.
• Field Support Services – RBI Solar has dedicated Project Managers and certified installation teams that are capable of ensuring each Sunflower II system is properly installed and commissioned. Crucial note: All installation crews are required to complete mandatory training and must follow QA/QC protocol in order to install the Sunflower II system. This way they not only learn the critical tolerances but also what could happen if they don’t maintain those tolerances.
“That level of understanding the product and how to install it effectively is now one of the pillars we attach to Sunflower 2,” says Kevin Ward, marketing manager for RBI. “Knowing that our customers have their own crews they want work with, our project managers will schedule a site visit to attend the initial build. We will perform a quality check after the first row is built. We’re calling this the Golden Row Check. Our team will review any issues of concern with the crews to ensure a quality install moving forward. Prior to commissioning we will perform another spot check of the site to ensure standards were maintained during the build. A field report of issues of concern is provided to the customer so adjustments can be made before turning the site on.”
• Integrated Wire System – Along with the complete mounting system, the Sunflower II is equipped with an integrated electronic balance of systems (eBos) that ranges from wiring to combiner boxes.
Rows are also adjustable up to 120 depending on location. Having that flexibility for funky row lengths allows developers to pack the maximum amount of solar into any given plot of land.
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