The Energy Industry Needs to Take A Test Drive

September 13, 2016

Dynamic DesignThough self-driving cars for the masses are still a few years off, anyone who has spent time shopping for a new car lately can attest that the range of intelligent automotive design innovations now available is remarkable. Cars are able to park themselves, help drivers avoid collisions, serve as a connected device on wheels and more. That said, what excites me most is “dynamic design.” The energy industry would be well served to pay close attention.

What is dynamic design? In the simplest terms, dynamic design enables performance that is optimized in real-time. Take the BMW “Intelligent Chassis” as an example. Allow me to quote the 7 Series brochure:

  • A frontal camera previews the road ahead to actively and intelligently adjust damper settings while working together with Active Roll Stabilization technology, minimizing body roll…
  • The standard 2-Axle Air Suspension gives each drive maximum comfort, responsiveness and performance by tailoring the vehicles ride height and handling characteristics to the driving conditions
  • Working in tandem with Dynamic Stability Control, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system monitors the road’s conditions. Once it senses excess slip, it smartly sends power to the wheel with the surest footing...

Though the steel structures that comprise a solar power plant might seem like a far cry from steel-on-four-wheels, the two industries actually have more in common than you might think when it comes to advanced engineering and the capacity for dynamic design to optimize performance.

Consider SunLink’s new TechTrack Distributed single-axis tracker.

Unlike many legacy solar mounting systems, TechTrack, as the name implies, represents an EnTech convergence – or the harnessing of tech industry advancements to inform energy product innovation. Integral to TechTrack are sensors that monitor real-time environmental conditions and enable the system to react intelligently as a means to continually maximize energy generation while at the same time reducing the risk of harm to the power plant.

Like the BMW Intelligent Chassis, TechTrack’s Dynamic Stabilization™ adjusts performance in response to its surroundings:

  • In normal conditions, Dynamic Stabilization increases or reduces damping to create optimal stiffness and alleviate stress on the tracker
  • During design-critical wind events, Dynamic Stabilization signals the tracker to stiffen so it can withstand greater wind loads more efficiently.
  • The technology also dramatically increases system natural frequency, improving the tracker’s ability to withstand higher wind speeds

Not only do these dynamic design advantages mean superior energy generation, they also mean lower product costs. Because TechTrack Distributed is able to react in the moment and in essence protect itself from environmental events, the amount of steel required for each component is significantly reduced.

Plus, the same sensors that enable dynamic design are used to feed real-time data back to SunLink’s engineers as they conduct R&D on future product designs. No longer is it sufficient to base product designs and project solutions exclusively on laboratory outcomes and static modeling. Instead, we are informing a new generation of structural analysis with real time wind and snow load, forces, system performance and other data from ongoing field data collection.  This stream of data will yield the most advanced and valuable products in our industry’s history.

Imagine the possibilities. Dynamic design is poised not only to deliver significant advances today, but also facilitate future valuations and untold gains as we look to the future.

Clearly, the energy sector can accelerate more quickly by following the road paved by the technology innovation of other industries. As dynamic design improves the performance of our assets over the long term, solar projects become inherently more valuable and global solar power adoption is driven forward to new heights.

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