FTC Solar Tests Tracker Against Wind Tunnel Effects


FTC Solar has co-authored a whitepaper with wind engineering experts RWDI and structural engineering firm Engineered Power Solutions (EPS) on the wind mitigation strategy of FTC’s single axis tracker, Voyager.

This strategy – combining a zero-degree wind stow position with proprietary dampening technology – was independently characterized through wind tunnel testing carried out by RWDI. The result is a solar tracker platform that alleviates the effects of static and dynamic wind loading, preventing catastrophic failure and revenue loss.

“Due to the high level of torsional damping in the model from the dampers, divergent oscillations indicative of aerodynamic instability were not observed in the configurations with at least one damper per half,” states RWDI’s report.

Through testing wind speeds between 105 and 150 mph, RWDI determined that the Voyager tracker remains stable. This unique damping technology is essential as it prevents wind from affecting the surface of the modules, which can ultimately lead to catastrophic failures.

“These large surface area modules with the frames at the outer edge, behave dynamically in new ways that traditional design approaches can’t analyze. This can lead to microcracking and cell failure that is not visible to the naked eye,” says Nagendra Cherukupalli, chief technical officer at FTC Solar. “To alleviate these issues, FTC Solar is pioneering the use of multi-body dynamics simulation to fully characterize the dynamic behavior of single axis trackers.”

To prevent wind damage during photovoltaic plant construction, FTC Solar attaches dampers to each row before the modules and sets the row to zero-degree stow, meaning no power or commissioning is required to protect the row from wind effects. Ultimately, this allows each row to be shielded and keeps installers in the field safe.

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