A solar tracker is a generic term used to describe devices that orient various payloads toward the sun. Payloads can be photovoltaic panels, reflectors, lenses or other optical devices.
In flat-panel photovoltaic (PV) applications trackers are used to minimize the angle of incidence between the incoming light and a photovoltaic panel. This increases the amount of energy produced from a fixed amount of installed power generating capacity. In standard photovoltaic applications, it is estimated that trackers are used in at least 85% of commercial installations greater than 1MW from 2009 to 2012.
In concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) and concentrated solar thermal (CSP) applications trackers are used to enable the optical components in the CPV and CSP systems. The optics in concentrated solar applications accept the direct component of sunlight light and therefore must be oriented appropriately to collect energy. Tracking systems are found in all concentrator applications because such systems do not produce energy unless oriented closely toward the sun.