Predicting Wind Loading and Instability in Solar Tracking PV Arrays

Research output: NRELPresentation


Wind loading and the fluctuating pressure loads it creates on PV panel surfaces are associated with multiple degradation mechanisms and failures. Modest wind speeds create reversing loads that can initiate cell cracks and weather cracked cells. Stronger wind speeds and extreme weather events can lead to larger scale forces and the aerodynamic instability known as torsional galloping. All these effects are dependent on the complex coupling between wind speed, panel orientation, and a myriad of other hardware and site-specific factors. In this work, we present the latest developments from our work to build an open-source, high-performance computing (HPC) fluid dynamics solver to predict and mitigate these effects. This simulation package allows users to easily specify different array layouts, solar-tracking angles, panel geometries, and weather conditions before automatically generating a refined computational mesh and solving for the unsteady loading on each panel surface. Small domains (e.g., a single panel row in isolation) can be solved on a modern laptop, while larger domains or very high-fidelity studies can be solved on distributed or HPC resources with minimal modifications to the underlying problem specification. We present preliminary case studies obtained using this simulation package and highlight how increased wind speeds combined with sub-optimal tracking angles can exacerbate degradation drivers.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 Photovoltaic Reliability Workshop (PVRW), 28 February - 2 March 2023, Lakewood, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-85567


  • aerodynamics
  • PV
  • solar tracker
  • stability
  • wind loading


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