University of Vermont

Students on the Lawn

Solar Trackers and Interviews

by Jack Lehrecke '12, CEF Summer Intern


These last few weeks have involved a lot of review and finalizations for previous technologies such as PV, wind, solar thermal and geothermal. While our output calculations are complete for the most part, the large collection of reports needs to be consolidated into a final project. CHA will be doing all of the final reviews as well as producing a site map of campus highlighting the areas best for each technology, but we have still been involved in writing summaries for each section introducing each respective technology. Additionally, as the timeframe for the internship draws to a close we have begun the process of filming interviews with each intern, including myself, to aid in the documentation of the summer’s work. We also had a very exciting site visit to one of North America’s largest solar tracker PV installations at the All Earth Renewables facility and were lucky enough to get a personal tour through both the company headquarters where manufacturing takes place, as well as the power project location in Williston.


Solar tracker installations utilize hydraulic motors that incrementally adjust the position of a set of solar panels in order to maximize the incident rays from the sun and increase the overall efficiency of the installation. General fixed ground mounts are stationary and while they operate at a very similar efficiency to trackers during high sun in the middle of the day, they do not perform nearly as well in the mornings and late afternoons when the sun is rising and setting in both the east and the west respectively.  It was very interesting for me to visit the All Earth Renewables power project in Williston and learn about the benefits of the technology, as I have never studied the difference between mobile and fixed ground mounts closely. While the trackers are more expensive than their stationary counterparts, the increase in output they offer is quite substantial and I was surprised to learn that the increased efficiency offsets the cost to the point where trackers are very similarly priced to stationary systems when compared on a $/Watt basis, especially in larger installations.   


I really enjoyed writing the proposals for solar tracker installations on campus because they were on a much larger scale than any of the building mounted write-ups. We focused on the fields surrounding the Miller Farm and Bioresearch complex as they are in Green Mountain Power (GMP) domain, who offer better benefits than anywhere within the city limits, and they offer some of the largest open space owned by UVM. While the proposals were not entirely realistic in that the reports assumed using all available space for the installation, even a project utilizing a fraction of the available space could provide more than enough energy to completely power every UVM owned facility within both the Bioresearch center and the Miller Farm Complex with kilowatts to spare.