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All the kit you need to follow the sun

14 June 2011

Sun-tracking is an important element of solar panel implementation and a growing application sector for motion specialists offering products that can tolerate the environmental rigours of such installations. Here we see how HepcoMotion’s ring systems, with their ability to withstand high temperatures and dust ingress, are becoming an attractive option for this market

The market for solar cells has been growing apace and the industry is keen to make its products as efficient as possible to retain its share of the global renewable energy market. Many current installations are fixed – that is, the solar panels are permanently positioned with respect to a point at which the sun is at its highest in the sky, and thus providing the greatest concentration of energy.

Clearly the downside is that these systems are less efficient at capturing energy during other times of the day. Sun-tracking, on the other hand, is a method that is increasingly being adopted to enhance the efficiency of the solar panel by continuously optimising its position in relation to the sun. The energy is captured more efficiently and then either turned directly into electricity by the solar panel or used to turn water into steam to power turbines for electricity generation.

The HepcoMotion ring system is used to achieve the necessary pan and tilt movements that keep the solar panel correctly aligned with respect to the sun’s position as it arcs across the sky. Another variation on this theme is to use mirrors to track the sun’s movements and reflect light on a centrally located solar panel. HepcoMotion’s ring system, with its high loading capabilities, is particularly suited to this application as these mirrors can be quite heavy.

The company can produce single piece rings up to 1.8m in diameter and also distortion-free ring segments that ensure both concentricity and smooth running whatever the diameter. Complementing these large rings are high capacity bearings that the company is now manufacturing at its Essex plant. Bearings of up to 150mm diameter are capable of taking loads of several tons.

HepcoMotion rings will work reliably at temperature extremes, in hot, arid and dusty environments where solar panels are typically installed. Their ‘vee’ profile provides a self-cleaning action that disperses  contaminants, such as dust, from the slideway. The inherently low friction of the design means that, in most cases, dry running is completely acceptable with no lubrication needed between slide and wheel – a boon for those locations where maintenance visits are few and far between.

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