While the significant cost reductions seen across the solar industry in the last decade-plus have allowed the resource to expand exponentially in a relatively short period of time, this same growth has led to an issue that is only set to grow as each new project is built: flat, even land, the kind most optimal for development, won’t be available forever.

When developers need flat land that they just don’t have, they have historically turned to land grading, the effective and established process of excavating the dirt around a project site and moving it to create an area of even, level terrain.

This issue has only been exacerbated by the high adoption rates of single-axis trackers, which can promise solar project yield gains up to 35% more than conventional systems, when paired with other breakthrough technologies, like bifacial panels. These trackers, however, require the rows of panels mounted upon them to be at the exact same height and angle, requiring significant earthwork and longer foundation pile lengths, all of which add to project costs.

Developers faced with an uneven project terrain profile can encounter land grading cost estimates of more than 5% of total project budget, and that’s before the considerations of wind-blown dust, rainwater erosion, and any other relevant environmental variables are taken into account, which can all further drive up costs.

Hearing the concerns of site terrain and project land grading come up time and time again in conversations with customers, Nextracker decided to tackle the issues of sloping and undulating terrain head-on. The company has created the NX Horizon-XTR, a terrain-following, single-axis tracker built specifically for projects located on sites with sloped, uneven, and challenging terrain.

“It’s often the case where we have customers that identify needs,” Nextracker CEO and Founder, Dan Shugar, told pv magazine in an exclusive interview. “So we had a customer about three and a half years ago, Swinerton (now SOLV), and they said, ‘Hey, your tracker is much more adaptive to terrain than you’re allowing in the specification, and we think there can be a lot of value there.’”

From that initial observation, the Nextracker team went to the lab to turn an ancillary strength into the main selling point for what the company hopes will be a market-shaping product. The breakthrough was initially enabled by Nextracker’s self-contained tracker motor, which allows each tracker row in an installation to operate independently from all of the other rows, referred to as adaptive tracking.

“[Adaptive tracking] allowed a whole range of benefits: we could self power the tracker with a little solar panel, instead of hooking up to the grid, and each row could be independent, meaning you could drive through the system for vegetation management, cleaning, maintenance on solar panels, or during construction,” shared Shugar “So if you’re on an if you’re on a hilly site, in the morning and sun’s on the east side, all of your trackers can all be at the ideal angle.”

Before adaptive tracking, tracker controls were largely on the project-level, meaning that if the angle for one row was adjusted, the angles of all modules across the project were adjusted.

“It’s often the case where we have customers that identify needs,” Nextracker CEO and Founder, Dan Shugar, told pv magazine in an exclusive interview. “So we had a customer about three and a half years ago, Swinerton (now SOLV), and they said, ‘Hey, your tracker is much more adaptive to terrain than you’re allowing in the specification, and we think there can be a lot of value there.’”

From that initial observation, the Nextracker team went to the lab to turn an ancillary strength into the main selling point for what the company hopes will be a market-shaping product. The breakthrough was initially enabled by Nextracker’s self-contained tracker motor, which allows each tracker row in an installation to operate independently from all of the other rows, referred to as adaptive tracking.

“[Adaptive tracking] allowed a whole range of benefits: we could self power the tracker with a little solar panel, instead of hooking up to the grid, and each row could be independent, meaning you could drive through the system for vegetation management, cleaning, maintenance on solar panels, or during construction,” shared Shugar “So if you’re on an if you’re on a hilly site, in the morning and sun’s on the east side, all of your trackers can all be at the ideal angle.”

Before adaptive tracking, tracker controls were largely on the project-level, meaning that if the angle for one row was adjusted, the angles of all modules across the project were adjusted.

“It’s often the case where we have customers that identify needs,” Nextracker CEO and Founder, Dan Shugar, told pv magazine in an exclusive interview. “So we had a customer about three and a half years ago, Swinerton (now SOLV), and they said, ‘Hey, your tracker is much more adaptive to terrain than you’re allowing in the specification, and we think there can be a lot of value there.’”

From that initial observation, the Nextracker team went to the lab to turn an ancillary strength into the main selling point for what the company hopes will be a market-shaping product. The breakthrough was initially enabled by Nextracker’s self-contained tracker motor, which allows each tracker row in an installation to operate independently from all of the other rows, referred to as adaptive tracking.

“[Adaptive tracking] allowed a whole range of benefits: we could self power the tracker with a little solar panel, instead of hooking up to the grid, and each row could be independent, meaning you could drive through the system for vegetation management, cleaning, maintenance on solar panels, or during construction,” shared Shugar “So if you’re on an if you’re on a hilly site, in the morning and sun’s on the east side, all of your trackers can all be at the ideal angle.”

Before adaptive tracking, tracker controls were largely on the project-level, meaning that if the angle for one row was adjusted, the angles of all modules across the project were adjusted.