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Open-Source Design and Economics of Manual Variable-Tilt Angle DIY Wood-Based Solar Photovoltaic Racking System

Fixed-tilt mechanical racking, consisting of proprietary aluminum extrusions, can dominate the capital costs of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Recent design research has shown that wood-racking can decrease the capital costs of small systems by more than 75% in North America. To determine if wood racking provides enough savings to enable labor to be exchanged profitably for higher solar electric output, this article develops a novel variable tilt angle open-source wood-based do-it-yourself (DIY) PV rack that can be built and adjusted at exceptionally low costs. A detailed levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) production analysis is performed after the optimal monthly tilt angles are determined for a range of latitudes. The results show the racking systems with an optimal variable seasonal tilt angle have the best lifetime energy production, with 5.2% more energy generated compared to the fixed-tilt system. Both fixed and variable wooden racking systems show similar LCOE, which is only 29% of the LCOE of commercial metal racking.