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Long life polymer bearings for solar power generation

igus South Africa has announced the introduction of its new polymer bearings for solar power generation with a vastly improved lifespan and little to no need for maintenance.

Solar panels need to track the sun for maximum efficiency. Bearings used in the alignment of solar panels with the sun usually get worn out rather quickly and require regular maintenance to operate for any length of time in the harsh, arid and dusty climates where solar farms are traditionally located. These bearings are typically the only moving parts in the system and therefore need to be maintained well.

As a result, polymer bearing manufacturer igus South Africa has worked with some of the country’s top design engineers to solve the problem by introducing its no-maintenance long-life pillow block bearing.

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A versatile solution for solar power

According to design engineer Gerrit-Jan Cronselaar, of Super Armature Winding Africa, the pillow block design of the bearings for solar power has eased the installation of its system. He added that this is largely due to the fact that slight misalignment of the piles driven into the ground can be accommodated in the bearing itself rather than the pile/mounting hardware. This leads to faster and easier installation, saving effort and money in the process.

Bearings for solar power
Artist’s impression of the pillow block design of the bearings for solar power

“The igus bearings have a long product warranty and lifespan, are maintenance-free and can handle dust and typical harsh conditions faced in African solar application areas,” says Cronselaar. He believes that traditional bearing design will have to become much more involved and consider an under swung design to match the performance level of the igus bearings.

Lubrication free bearings

Ian Hewat, managing director of igus South Africa, says: “Our bearings are a lubrication-free solution, whose durability has been tested in the laboratory and is guaranteed for 25 years.” The bearings were tested at the igus laboratory in Germany. Factors such as service life, wear-resistance and load capacity were examined by placing the polymer bearings under real loads of the daily motion sequence, simulated in a time-lapse.

“The number of movements achieved under a load of 1.5 tons corresponds to a service life of 72 years,” says Ian.  igus guarantees a runtime of 25 years, which corresponds to the standard service life of a solar module.