As of recently, many of us look for some kind of renewable energy! We all know about standard solar panels, right, as they have been on the market for quite some time, but have you ever heard about bifacial solar panels? If you are curious to know more about them and find out whether and how they are profitable for commercial solar projects, you came to the right place.
In recent years, we have everyone from meteorologists to environmentalists saying almost every day that we need to change our attitudes and behaviors if we want to preserve the planet. But it is safe to say that it would be pretty obvious that we are facing a serious situation in the future, even if they weren’t warning us.
You probably, same as the rest of us, remember the bush fires that devoured hundreds of hectares in Australia! But this wasn’t the only disaster we witnessed recently. Each year we hear about fires in California. There were also horrendous fires in Amazonia. In all, a lot of animals and insects lost their habitats, food sources, etc.
A lot of animals also died in those disasters that were more or less caused by humans. Apart from that, you have probably noticed that there are more and more earthquakes. Okay, a lot of things can cause earthquakes, indeed. However, a growing body of research indicates that human activity, such as mining, dam building, fracking, etc., induces earthquakes with a magnitude as high as 7.9.on the Richter scale.
When you look at all of that, it is more than clear why we need to focus on finding sources and using renewable energy. As in everything else, technology plays a big part here, and so today we have solar panels as one of the most efficient types of solar energy. In general, solar technology is undeniably a fast-evolving technology. Proof of that is that we hear about some innovations and changes every day.
By now, we all know about mono facial solar panel models, right? They are the most common you can find on the market and most people use them in their homes. Monofacial solar panels have solar cells that are collecting light only on one side.
But lately, we are hearing about a new product trend, emerging in the solar industry – bifacial panels. They are designed to capture sunlight on the front and backside and are becoming a new solar array solution for different companies from those that develop games such as book of dead to many others. However, we have to say that the term new isn’t adequately used in this case. The thing is that their roots can be traced back to 1960 and satellite technology, the same as is the case for other energy efficiency technologies. Bifacial panels are becoming particularly interesting for commercial solar projects these days, so we decided to research a bit about this topic.
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What Are Bifacial Panels
As we mentioned already, traditional panels capture sunlight only on one side. The light that cannot be captured gets reflected away. Bifacial models come with solar cells on both sides, which means that they absorb light from the back and the front equally. In simple terms, it means that these panels can absorb the light that reflects from the ground.
They can be used in residential projects, of course. However, if you are thinking about rooftop installation, these panels are not of any use to you. They are best used in commercial projects where they are elevated and mounted away from the surface. That way, the light can reflect into the back of the panel.
These panels are made of transparent glass, which is tempered. They can also be made of a clear back sheet with mono/polycrystalline silicon panels. Due to this, both sides are exposed to the sun, which allows them to catch more light than the standard panels. Hence, they are more effective at producing energy and converting it to electricity.
The interesting thing about bifacial solar panels is that their installed capacity according to Wood Mackazie Power & Renewables grew from 97MW globally in 2016 to over 2,600MW in 2018. According to assessments, it will reach 20,000 MW in 2024.
How Do They Work?
Many people contacted us to ask how these solar modules work. They work the same way as standard panels do. They come with semiconductor materials that convert light energy to electricity. In simple terms, when the sun reaches the panel, the solar cell absorbs part of it and turns it into energy that we use. Part of the light is caught in the glass and gets reflected through the interior panel. Some of it passes through the glass and reaches the ground. If the ground is reflective the light will return to the panel. Given all that, it is essential to say that these panels are constructed differently. There is a glass structure that holds solar cells. Hence, they don’t need the metal frame such as the one you can see on standard panels. As they come with tempered glass, they are more durable and weather-resistant. The absence of a metal frame reduces the risk of corrosion.
When it comes to solar cells, the only difference is that they are two-sided in this case. Hence, there are silicon layers on the front and backside. Some models come with extra conductors on the backside. As we mentioned before, solar radiation is best when they are installed on highly reflective surfaces. They work perfectly in areas with a sandy or snowy environment.
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Pros and Cons of Bifacial Solar Panels
Advantages of Bifacial Solar Panels
They provide high efficiency at a lower cost.
As we already mentioned, the solar capacity of these modules is much higher since they capture the light from both sides. They produce 10 to 20 percent more energy than standard solar panels, on average. However, this can be increased to 30 – 40 % given the adequate conditions and that a single axis tracker is installed.
All of that means that the long terms costs will be lowered. As they capture more light, logically, buildings get more energy without having to spend more. It is something that can be super beneficial for companies that are looking at more cost-effective ways to generate power. Apart from that, this low-cost solar resource is excellent for companies that use a significant amount of energy every day, such as construction businesses, etc. Let us talk about bankability a bit. The mentioned WoodMac report claims that the production cost differential between bifacial mono PERC and monofacial mono PERC is about 0.50 USD. Another research, conducted by National Renewable Energy Laboratory included Levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis assessing it to be around 25 -45 dollars per MWh across the U.S.
They take less space.
If you opt for bifacial solar, you will need fewer panels to produce sufficient energy for the whole building. It is sort of logical considering that they collect sunlight from both sides. The fewer panels you install, the more space will remain for something else.
As we mentioned, these panels are made with tempered glass. Maybe you already know this, maybe not, but this kind of glass is designed to be more durable and withstand extreme weather conditions. What does it mean? Well, it means that these panels will be able to collect some light regardless of the weather outside. Also, they are more resistant to UV rays as they don’t come with plastic laminate. More than that, these panels don’t have a metal frame, so they are less likely to be damaged by stray currents. Having all that in mind, experts say that it is very likely that bifacial will outlast any type of mono facial solar panel.
Easily Installed at any angle
As you probably know, standard panels need to be installed at an adequate angle to be most efficient. However, the solar factor of bifacial panels is not affected by the angle. Apart from that when you have these panels you can install a single-axis tracking system. This allows for the panel to move in a trajectory that is relative to the position of the sun. In other words, commercial buildings can benefit from the sunlight regardless of the time of day, etc.
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Disadvantages of Bifacial Solar Panels
Installation is expensive.
The materials and the complexity of installation make that the costs are higher than the cost of installation of standard panels. But there is another reason for this. The fact it is only recently becoming popular, and many people still don’t know anything about this technology. Many manufacturers use this as an opportunity to increase the price by 10 %.
The materials are heavy
As we already established, solar irradiance is much better than with traditional solar panels. However, tempered glass, which is responsible for this, is heavier than other materials. Plus, it requires plenty of care and maintenance. It is also worth mentioning that maintenance is also more challenging. The best would be to call a professional skilled in solar PV to do the job.
It should be installed on sites with a high reflective power
To ensure maximal efficiency, the bifacial solar panels should be put in places that easily reflect sunlight. The problem is that if there isn’t such a place, you need to create it, and this means you will have additional costs. Bifacial panels are already a big investment. Hence, these extra costs only mean that fewer companies will be able to afford them.
Types of Bifacial Panels
Given that they are all made of glass, we can say that there aren’t many variants. Commercial panels are mainly monocrystalline. However, few models are polycrystalline. It is also possible to find a few flexible bifacial panels. Usually, they are made of monocrystalline (mono-Si) closed in plastic or transparent cloth. They are small and used for recreation rather than a business. You can see them on boats.
Apart from finding the best models in the solar market, you also need to think about mounting options. That is because; the efficiency of the panels will greatly depend on mounting options. Unlike traditional models, bifacial panels can’t be installed against the wall. Rather, it is better to say that they technically can, but then you won’t see any benefit from reflectance. If you opt for these solar PV options, you need to be a bit more creative. To help you out, we are going to propose several mounting ideas.
These panels are often installed on the ground, especially on surfaces with high reflective power. These often include white tiles, white sand, or brightly colored gravel. Avoid using dark-colored materials for the surface, as they absorb more light than they reflect. Snowy surface is also excellent for the installation of bifacial panels.
As everyone from the solar sector would tell you, the key is to minimize any shading or shadows. That is why the manufacturers include special mounting brackets and clamps designed for your model.
Again, it would be ideal if you have a white or flat highly reflective roof without any slope. White roofs are generally the best as they have the highest albedo, comparable to snow. As we already mentioned, it is not recommended that you install them directly on the roof because then you won’t benefit from the fact that they have solar cells on both sides. Same as ground-based panels; these arrays should be tilted at the angle that suits that latitude.
Usually, they are installed east to west, which allows them to capture sunlight throughout the day. They are getting direct sunlight early in the morning and later afternoon. During the day, they capture mainly reflected sunlight, because they don’t get direct sunlight when the sun is overhead.
Horizontal solar installation is an excellent choice when you want to add to the aesthetics of your home or company, besides opting for clean energy. These setups capture direct sunlight during the day. They also collected direct sunlight. They are best installed over a pool or front porch.
The Use of Commercial Projects
Most commercial buildings consume a significant amount of energy every day. Taking into consideration the benefits and the future outlook of solar development, it is safe to say that they are the best investment for any business. It is the most cost-effective and sustainable way to produce electricity. It is also the most efficient of all solar technologies. As we mentioned, as they are two sides they absorb more solar radiation, and they produce 10 to 20 % more electricity than standard panels. With all that in mind, it is more than clear that businesses can use these panels to help the planet and reduce their costs in the long run.
Future Outlook Of Bifacial Panels
The fact is that they are pretty expensive for the time being. However, as more people are starting the various benefits of these panels, many manufacturers are trying to improve technology and reduce costs. That said, we already have some lower-end models that cost almost as standard modules. Keep in mind that bifacial modules last longer and are more durable, which means that they pay off more in the long run. Since they are more efficient, they will be even more competitive as the cost per watt decreases.
We are at the end of our text about solar in 2021. There are already many studies that prove the gains and increasing affordability of bifacial solar panels. Still wondering are they worth it? We are here to tell you that they are absolutely worth every penny. The industry is working even harder to develop self-regulating standards that will improve the credibility and bankability of this technology. They are more efficient than the mono facial panels, as they use both sides to produce more electricity. The market is growing, and more and more businesses and homeowners commit to using these solar panels. It is estimated that this will only increase as the Earth gets warmer due to climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels lessens. Are you considering making investments in this field? Can you share with us your reasons?
Arthur Rowley is an avid writer specializing mostly in technology and marketing. Having spent years finessing his craft, he now can ensure you that Arthur has much acclaim for these areas and dedication to providing high-quality blogging content.