Levelling the field with terrain-following solar tracker

Solar tracker panels on hilly, uneven terrain (nextracker)
Image: Nextracker

Solar tech company Nextracker has launched its revolutionary NX Horizon-XTR—a terrain-following, single-axis tracker designed to expand the addressable market of solar power on sites with sloped, uneven, and challenging terrain.

Nextracker began deployment and empirical testing of NX Horizon-XTR at utility scale three years ago, working closely with customers that faced capital expense and construction challenges on project sites with hilly terrain. Savings in the millions attributable to reduced grading and shorter piles has been validated on select utility-scale projects.

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Today, more than 15 NX Horizon-XTR sites are operational and dozens of additional projects are under design and construction globally.
Project developers are increasingly including sites with sloping and undulating terrain to meet the demand for utility-scale solar plants.

Land with these characteristics has historically introduced more risk and cost to projects, requiring significant earthwork and longer foundation pile lengths. NX Horizon-XTR’s terrain-following capabilities can reduce grading, minimise steel costs, and decrease project risks.

“This is a smarter, more streamlined way to build solar on challenging terrain,” Silicon Ranch SVP technology and asset management Nick de Vries said.

“There are some things you cannot out-engineer, and in my experience well-established topsoil is one of them. Deploying traditional solar trackers on sites with varied terrain has required extra earthwork and longer foundation piles, which increases project costs and adds risk.

“Earthwork is especially painful as it affects a solar project three times: first performing grading, next reseeding the exposed dirt, and later fixing the inevitable erosion and hydrology issues that come from the lack of well-vegetated topsoil.

For Silicon Ranch, high-quality solar projects and being good stewards of the land go together, so conforming to the native ground contours with Horizon-XTR just makes sense.”

Over three years ago, SOLV (formerly Swinerton Renewable Energy), pushed Nextracker to develop a terrain-following solution. After working closely with them and project owners to integrate requirements and complete lab and field-tests the result is the terrain-following solar tracker, XTR product line.

“In Australia, Nextracker has worked closely with our developer and EPC partners to understand site challenges and barriers to deploying solar on undulating terrain. This extends beyond the economic feasibility of building solar plants on difficult land, but also encompasses genuine concern around land disturbance, re-seeding time, and dual use of land,” Nextracker Australian director of sales Andrew Chino said.

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“As we face increasingly challenging sites, it’s vital to ensure we innovate and challenge ourselves to improve technology and diversify land options for renewable energy deployment.”

“Renewable energy shouldn’t come at the cost of our environment or be prohibited by cost. NX Horizon-XTR opens a new frontier for solar developers to affordably build on sites that were previously too expensive, while respecting the historical and environmental aspects of the land,” he said.

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