You're ready for your solar tracker installation: your tracker pallet is onsite and the crew is ready to roll. The base has been installed, the groundwork is complete, and panels have arrived. But before you can install an AllEarth Solar Tracker in one day, you need to have built a very important and time saving tool, otherwise known as the jig.
The Importance of the Frame Jig
When building the frame/rail assembly, the jig is the one must-have apparatus that I can recommend. It allows you easy access to the entire frame as it is being built, it is a convenient height to work from and, most importantly, it allows for a flat array to be built to receive the panels. The jig needs to be positioned in a flat plane, not necessarily level.
Over the years, the AllEarth team has tried every imaginable process to build the frame flat and efficiently. The solution is the jig: it is your friend and could be thought of as another member of your crew. It’s a back saver, a time saving tool that can be easily built and dismantled, ready to move to your next install. To make things even easier, it is possible to use the same jig for all frame assemblies in our fleet.
Before starting to build the frame on the jig, there are three things to keep in mind:
- What tracker is being installed (S20/S24 or L20), and whether the jig has been set-up for that frame build.
- How you orient the frame on the jig (where is the top/cylinder bracket and bottom of the frame).
- What side will the machine pick up the frame from (top/North landing or bottom/South landing)?
When discussing the jig, I always talk as if I am standing on the side where the bottom will be oriented. From this point, you can make sure the frame is built correctly by following four important steps (remember, for more in-depth explanations, you can always refer to our installation manuals when you're onsite).
- Pay attention to the number of holes above or below the axle (bottom heavy for the S20 & S24 solar trackers or top heavy for L20 solar tracker)
- Orient the axle ground wire to face up on the right.
- Make sure the cylinder bracket is centered on the top beam.
- Orient the slotted holes on the brackets correctly (to the center for L20 & to the outside for S20/24).
Solar Tracker Frame/Rail Assembly
If you have double-checked all of these, you will be ready to dive into building the frame/rail assembly. Frame beams are placed where needed, the axle is oriented and slid into the two cross beams, and all eight top & bottom brackets are installed. Remember to install all bolts and nuts loosely into all brackets, visually check that the frame is flat and straight, and then tighten the bolts. Finished rails are installed next (be sure to check the charts in the installation manuals for correct lengths and overhang) and verify end measurements.
Finish off the assembly build with the installation of the mounting trim and you are now ready for your final checklist before slinging in preparation for lifting onto the can later. Ask the following questions to ensure correct frame assembly:
- Has the grounding wire been landed onto the right hand cross beam?
- Has the cylinder bracket been installed on the top beam with 12 bolts and nuts?
- Have all the bolts and nuts been installed in all eight brackets and tightened? (144 bolts & nuts in total)
- Is the hole orientation for axle location correct? (It's better to find a mistake now vs. after the panels are installed).
- Have all rail bolts been tightened? (Both rail construction and rail landing to the beams).
If you're happy that the frame/rail assembly is correct then you can go ahead and sling for lifting onto the can.
Helpful Hints for a Successful Solar Tracker Install
Here's a tip that will prepare you for flipping the array during panel installation later.
We add a sling to the center top beam, placed to one side or the other, closer to the frame brackets and away from the cylinder bracket. This allows you to more easily attach your chain fall later when the array is vertical and half-populated with panels. Keeping the sling to the side also keeps the chain fall out of the way for when you flip the array flat to install the cylinder.
Using the jig and building the frame/rail assembly can make or break the efficiency of the solar tracker install. Getting the crew to understand all the details of this phase makes for a smooth, fast frame/rail assembly build. Your goal here is to open the pallet and complete this phase in 1 ½ hours with no mistakes. Let me know how your crew does! And remember: your objective is to install an AllEarth tracker in one day!
I hope that this month's Hoppers Handy Tracker Hints were helpful.
Next month’s Hint: Mast and Can Installation
Dick Hopwood is the Lead Solar Technician at AllEarth Renewables.