Innovative wind-load analysis method for solar trackers
Soltec is an innovative international manufacturer, supplier, and installer of single-axis solar tracker equipment.
As a structure that moves or tilts to optimize exposure to the sun, single-axis solar trackers are prone to aeroelastic instabilities. Their movement can increase wind loads substantially compared to that of a static structure.
Failure to accurately determine how solar trackers respond to the wind could lead to the development of structures that are susceptible to damage in wind events and are therefore considered a risky economic investment. After studies showed that applying standard wind design code to solar trackers was insufficient and did not produce reliable results, Soltec turned to RWDI for help developing a cost-effective method for analyzing wind loads on ground-mount single-axis solar trackers.
Collaborating closely with Soltec, RWDI’s team of wind engineering experts:
- Conducted rigid pressure model wind tunnel testing to measure the fluctuating wind forces acting on the trackers.
- Performed sectional model wind tunnel testing to assess aeroelastic effects and investigate aerodynamic stability.
- Combined the results of these two model studies using proprietary numerical tools to produce a robust wind-response methodology that allows for flexibility in designing a solar tracker system while accurately predicting how that design will behave during wind events.
- Conducted full aeroelastic model wind tunnel testing to refine early predictions and validate the final tracker design.
The resulting hybrid experimental-numerical approach, dubbed ‘Dy-WIND’ by Soltec, accurately estimates solar tracker behavior in multi-row arrays during wind events. It allows flexibility early in the design process that is generally not practical with full aeroelastic model testing. Parameters can be changed on the fly without the need to go back into the wind tunnel for more testing. Understanding and designing for the total wind forces, including aeroelastic effects, increases reliability and reduces costs over the lifetime of the solar tracker.