Arctech, a leading tracking, racking, and Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) solutions provider, reported this December that it is preparing to further grow its Latin American market share. A halt in utility-scale solar project developments could slow the company’s progress in Mexico, though a higher demand for racking and BIPV look promising for 2022.
A solar tracker is a device that orients photovoltaic (PV) solar panels toward the sun, increasing the payoff for power plants. The technology also works for concentrated solar applications. Arctech holds an important global market share for the technology, ranking third in 2020’s tracker sales for Mexico, beaten only by NEXTracker and STI Norland.
Approximately 10 years ago, tracking solutions adoption in Latin America was hindered by a rather high CAPEX for such systems. With reliability and performance at times lacking in earlier systems, Latin American developing economies did not immediately warm to the technology. This is changing in current times, however: “When it comes to the factors considered for choosing a tracker, we normally need to compare the trackers in the aspects of financial performance and product reliability especially in harsh conditions. Latin America has rapidly evolved in tracker adoption. Countries that have quickly adopted this technology include Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and more recently Colombia. It was more or less a bumpy road because of the capex pricing of trackers, but plant owners now start to understand that tracker could help improve the reliability of the structure during the life of the plant significantly,” said Guillermo Garcia, Regional Director of Latin America North at Arctech.
The company’s Skyline II proved to be popular in Latin America, but the company has even higher hopes for the new SkyLine II solution. “Arctech launched SkyLine II, which is a very stiff tracker that mounts a synchronous multi-point drive mechanism. SkyLine II has a wind stow threshold of 22m/s, the highest in the industry so far, which allows it to track the sun for many more hours when compared with the industry standard. The rigidity provided by the multi-point drive mechanism also allows to safely stow to 0-degree,” Garcia said.
In the Mexican context, companies providing tracker solutions are experiencing tougher times as a result of a stop in private renewable energy developments, caused by the government’s efforts to “rescue” state utility CFE and mostly undo 2014’s market liberalizations. For Alejo López, Vice President Latin America of NEXTracker, the trend to move away from the utility scale poses a challenge. “Our product is designed for larger scale projects,” he acknowledges, “although smaller projects have also found its characteristics attractive and beneficial.” Within this environment, companies that can offer solutions focused toward projects below the 0.5MW permitting threshold could find success for the time being.