In this special edition of Contractors Corner, Cincinnati, Ohio-based solar racking company RBI Solar talks about manufacturing solar trackers in-house from start to finish using mostly Made-in-America materials. Below is a portion of the company’s Solar Spotlight podcast with Solar Power World, but be sure to listen to the full episode here or on your favorite podcast app to learn more about RBI’s increased focus on solar tracker projects.
What does RBI do differently in the tracker market?
We offer a one-stop, single-source option for trackers. We specifically design the systems ourselves in-house. We do all the engineering ourselves — all the material specifications and the material itself, we produce and then check. So what’s neat is you can come into the office one day with the design concepts, get it on paper, review it with your R&D and engineering teams and then have it made in the shop, which is attached to our offices.
We have a very good team of project managers and manufacturing staff, and they can do some amazing things on lead times. If you need a job in four weeks to start, whether it’s fixed-tilt or tracker, we can typically do that.
One thing that’s not to be overlooked with having all the design and engineer teams in-house with our project managers is we have that knowledge and expertise about how a project is completely developed and designed, all the way through the means and methods of installation. That foundation has really helped us to develop smarter, more efficient structures and systems.
We actually have our own installation crews that we use all throughout the country to install our products and they’re all trained on our systems too. For the most part, everybody that’s installing our jobs in the field are trained in our systems, so they know how things go together.
You’re buying that package with RBI. You’re not just buying a product, you’re not just buying a commodity, buying steel — you’re buying the service side, you’re buying years of experience, you’re buying that exciting, energetic culture that we hope to bring to our clients.
What trends are you seeing in the tracker market moving forward?
Bifacial panels could provide the next boost in module or energy production. PV panels have a hypothetical limit in terms of how much sunlight they can convert into energy. That limit, some say, is starting to be reached, so the next jump in efficiency would be having production on both sides of the modules.
Energy production for bifacial panels depends on your ground surface or your reflective material, so some of the highest reflective materials obviously are snow or white surfaces like light gravel or crushed limestone.
We’re looking at, ‘How do we develop sites better? Do we incorporate some kind of gravel with our installation crews below the modules? How do we expand our racking to provide more back light, so reflect the light to the back of the panel without blocking it with, say, a steel material?’ We’re working with a lot of module manufacturers on what we can do for better mounting techniques.
This podcast is sponsored by RBI Solar