There is some confusion about the term “tracking”:
Panel tracking – this is where the panels are on a mount that follows the sun. The most common are the Zomeworks. These optimize output by following the sun across the sky for maximum sunlight. These typically give you about a 15% increase in winter and up to a 35% increase in summer.
This is just the opposite of the seasonal variation for MPPT controllers. Since panel temperatures are much lower in winter, they put out more power. And winter is usually when you need the most power from your solar panels due to shorter days.
Maximum Power Point Tracking is electronic tracking – usually digital. The charge controller looks at the output of the panels, and compares it to the battery voltage. It then figures out what is the best power that the panel can put out to charge the battery. It takes this and converts it to best voltage to get maximum AMPS into the battery. (Remember, it is Amps into the battery that counts). Most modern MPPT’s are around 93-97% efficient in the conversion. You typically get a 20 to 45% power gain in winter and 10-15% in summer. Actual gain can vary widely depending weather, temperature, battery state of charge, and other factors.
Grid tie systems are becoming more popular as the price of solar drops and electric rates go up. There are several brands of grid-tie only (that is, no battery) inverters available. All of these have built in MPPT. Efficiency is around 94% to 97% for the MPPT conversion on those.
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