Single-axis tracker PV layout creation

Frame, Placement, Park, Layout, Generation, Piling, Custom, Settings, Export, Align, Exclusion, Zone, Restriction, Area, Trackers, SAT

Vito Bindokas avatar
Written by Vito Bindokas
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Single-axis tracker- PV layout creation

Prior to starting with frame creation, it is necessary to set up the Layout generation settings. This can be done by clicking on the Layout generation settings button and adjusting the information that is present there.

In the Layout and generation settings menu it is possible to proceed with the following selections:

  • Select the Restriction zone layer (boundaries on this layer will be avoided by frames).

  • Select Distance units (millimeters/meters or inches/feet).

  • Select Slope units (degrees, percentages).

  • The Optimized frames option hides unnecessary objects (3D modules, poles) to increase the performance of AutoCAD.

  • The Topographic layout option allows generating on a terrain survey, or on a flat surface when you don't have terrain data.

  • Using the Select button you can select or reselect the terrain data to be used.

  • Change from Existing (original) topography to Proposed topography (after performing the grading).

The next necessary step before area generation is to set up the Frame & park settings. This can be done by clicking on the Frame & park settings button and adjusting the information that is present in the three tabs there. This includes the physical parameters of your frames, placement & park layout settings.

Frame creation

Using the Current preset field and adjacent icons you can:

  • Use custom names for frame presets;

  • Duplicate the current frame preset;

  • Copy a selected frame’s information;

  • Delete an existing preset;

The Module Parameters section allows you to define custom module parameters to match those that are provided by your module manufacturer of choice.

The Frame parameters section allows us to specify:

  • The framing type (fixed-tilt, single-axis tracker, or east-west); In our example, we will use a Single-axis tracker.

Here we can also select the subtypes Multi-row trackers and Terrain following trackers and access the according settings:

Check the following articles for more details on these:
Multi-row trackers
Terrain following trackers

  • The module orientation - either portrait or landscape.

  • The grid size of the frame - we can specify the number of rows and columns in our frame.

  • The Turning angle range.

  • You may also choose to modify the horizontal and vertical gaps between modules.

  • The motor gap allows us to adjust the size of the gap for the motor. You may also opt to not use one by disabling the checkbox.

  • The number of joint gaps and their size can be configured as needed.

  • In the field Table length, we can see the full length of our frame

  • The frame power is determined by the power of the individual modules, multiplied by the number of modules per frame.

We then go to the Custom Piling menu to adjust the piling information for this specific frame.

We are provided with the option to adjust the motor position based on the application. This is referenced in the drawing on the right-hand side of the window.

In the Pole setup window, we can specify the Overhang for the far ends of our frames.

We can also adjust the Pole amount. We are also free to adjust the distances between the poles as we see fit. This is referenced in the drawing on the right-hand side of the window.

Just below, we have the option to toggle on equal margins - this will make it so that distance from the ends of the frame to the closest pole is the same.

Also, we are able to toggle on Mirror from the middle - using this, the software will mirror the values we input in the first half of the spacing table and the second half will be auto-populated to match.

Once we are satisfied with the piling options, we click Okay to finalize the process.

If you would like to use the same preset in another project, just use the export/import settings button:

For more information about importing and exporting settings:

Placement setup

Having explored the Frame Creation capabilities of PVcase, we can now explore the placement setup options. Firstly, we open the Placement Setup menu tab and select Single-axis trackers.

Here we see the Preset Library field which contains all the presets we created just before for this specific DWG file. From here you can select which of the available presets we should use when creating new PV areas. You can select one or multiple presets that you would like to utilize, as long as they have matching row counts, vertical gap size, and tilt angles.

As with our example, we can see that we are not able to select one of the presets as it has 2 rows rather than 1.

There is also an option to choose a specific color for each preset, to do so just click on a color box choose the specific color and press okay to finalize.

Just below the Preset Library field, we can see the option to select the frame placement order.

For Single-axis trackers, there is only one option available - Descending from the alignment line denotes that when populating the PV area, the software will put larger frames closest to the alignment line and will keep the smaller frames on the opposite side.

Park settings

Having created and selected our frame presets, we will now proceed to the Park settings options.

We can see that the three main sections are Inter-row settings, Corridor settings & Height settings.

The inter-row settings allow you to define the Pitch, Inner spacing (East-West displacement of frames), and Row spacing (North-South displacement of frames).

If we were to change the Pitch value to 10m, the inner spacing would be automatically calculated. Changing the inner spacing would consequently affect the pitch value - they are directly linked.

Additionally, Aligned rows is an important feature, which allows us to specify how the frames will be organized. This is best illustrated by hovering over the checkbox.

Aligned rows will follow an orderly grid pattern, which we can control in the Corridor settings. Un-aligned rows will better utilize the available PV area to achieve as much capacity as possible, at the cost of alignment and orderly design. It may be advantageous to do so in smaller PV areas.

We also have the option to toggle on Alignment by the motor gap. Instead of using the top of the frame as the reference point, the software will now use the motor gap as the main alignment reference.

Note: please note that for this tool to work as intended, the number of modules on either side of the motor should be matching as well as the size of the motor gaps or joint gaps between the two presets.

We are also able to set or draw azimuth for the trackers - up to 89.9°.

Corridor settings, if enabled, allow us to space our frames in the PV area in a more efficient, orderly fashion, allowing us to account for maintenance road clearances as well as splitting the PV areas into a grid. You can also control the size of every second gap independently of the main vertical corridor gap, which gives more flexibility.

Once we enable the Tracker corridors, we can edit the parameters, which will be illustrated and updated on the right-hand side of the window. Finally, we may also enable Corridor lines - these may be converted to roads if needed.

The Height settings section allows us to define the frame height for the PV area we intend to generate.

Please note that the input field is for the lowest frame height on a flat terrain rather than the minimum clearance height. PVcase places frames based on the pole reveal length, without taking mid-frame terrain collision into account. However, terrain collision can be analyzed at a later stage, as part of our Civil analysis section.

To read more about Civil analysis click on the button below:

Area generation

The first step in generating areas is to define the PV area in which we will be working. A PV area in PVcase should be defined by a closed polyline. This can be done by using the default AutoCAD polyline function. This can be summoned by typing PLINE, pressing Enter and drawing the desired perimeter of the PV area, ensuring that the polyline is finished at the starting point. This will yield a closed polyline, suitable for PV area population.

Once the Frame & Park Settings are configured to your specifications and we have a suitable PV area perimeter polyline, we can generate the PV areas in one of two ways - either one at a time or multiple PV areas simultaneously.

First, let us showcase the creation of singular PV areas. While the single area option is the default, you can select whether you want to generate a single area or multiple areas by clicking on the drop-down menu and choosing Generate single area.

Having chosen this option, we are prompted to select our PV area boundary - select our newly-drawn polyline and press Space or ENTER on the keyboard. You will then be prompted to define an Alignment line.

An alignment line is used to indicate the alignment bias of PV frames when creating PV areas. We can draw alignment lines on the PV area perimeter polyline as well as inside of it and outside of it. In our example, we will draw the Alignment line in the middle of our PV area - once we have our line, we press Enter or Space on the keyboard - this will initiate the generation of our frames in the PV area. Depending on the size of the area, this should only take a few seconds - you will then be able to see our newly-generated frames in the PV area we defined.

For our next example, let us clear the PV area by right-clicking on the PV area perimeter line, going to the PVcase sub-menu, and clicking on the Clear PV area option.

Then we create an extra PV area. For our example, we can draw a simple rectangle using the REC command.

We now have two viable PV area perimeters, which enables us to illustrate how one can generate multiple PV areas simultaneously. By clicking on the dropdown menu, we select the Generate multiple areas option, which prompts us to select our PV areas. Once both areas are selected, press Space or Enter on the keyboard and draw the alignment line for both areas - when generating multiple areas simultaneously, you are restricted to having a singular alignment line for both. Once we have the alignment line, press Space or Enter on the keyboard and we will have both PV areas populated shortly.

Generate multiple areas - this generation should be used when multiple areas are next to each other and need to have rows aligned between them.

Row alignment

PVcase has the option to enforce row alignment, meaning that PVcase will make an effort to keep the same layout as much as possible. The software will opt to keep the uniformity of the layout, choosing not to populate areas with objects in the PVcase Offsets layer (for example, trees/buildings) or if the PV area is non-rectangular, it may opt to not populate certain regions of the area.

Meanwhile, unaligned rows will make a greater effort to more densely populate the entire PV area at the cost of uniformity, while respecting the PVcase Offsets layer restrictions.

For our first example, we will draw a restriction zone in our first PV area with the REC command and assign it to the PVcase Offsets layer. We will then generate a single area as shown previously, with aligned rows disabled. As we can see, the software places the rows closer to the restricted areas, but with less regard to the grid alignment.

If we were to replicate the same steps, only with Aligned Rows enabled, we may observe the difference in behaviors. We can see that the layout is more uniform but it is less than optimal, capacity-wise. Further manual adjustments may be necessary to achieve higher capacity.

Show piling

Once the PV areas are generated, we can proceed to generate our piling. This can be done by clicking the Show piling button, selecting the PV area perimeter line, and pressing Space or Enter on the keyboard. Soon enough, your frames will be populated with their poles.

To see what the piling looks like, we may choose an isometric view (SW Isometric, for example) and/or while holding the Shift key and Middle Mouse button to rotate the view manually using the mouse.

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