Dual-Sided Solar Panel Breakthrough Means Massive Efficiency Gains

The bifacial cell absorbs incident light directly and at the same time uses the ground reflection, which … [+] can add up to 30% additional electricity generation

Eric Byler / The Australian National University

Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra have developed the world’s first “truly bifacial solar cell”. These panels are double-sided, with both the front and back of the solar module capable of generating electricity. Place a mirror behind these cells and the incident sunlight can be absorbed twice.

“When used in a conventional solar park, a bifacial cell absorbs incident light and at the same time uses the ground reflection, which can contribute up to 30 percent additional electricity generation,” said Dr. Kean Chern Fong from the ANU team.

With an innovative “laser doping” process, the ANU researchers have significantly increased the efficiency of the front and rear energy conversion, which enables them to increase the generation capacity by 96.3%. According to the ANU, their bifacial cells have an overall performance of 29%, which is well above that of typical unilateral cells.

Bifacial solar cells are nothing new. As with many energy efficiency technologies, their roots go back to satellite technology of the 1960s. Top manufacturers like Canadian Solar offer 400W panels that can provide 30% extra power from the rear.

The Chinese are said to have used bifacial solar cells in their 2.2 GW solar park in Qinghai, which is still one of the largest solar systems in the world. Their additional efficiency is often coupled with tracking racks that rotate with the position of the sun. Bifacial plates have the advantage of requiring less movement. In this way, the complexity of the tracker can be reduced, which means that significantly fewer devices are required and an increase in energy efficiency of 5% is achieved in addition to massive cost savings.

Arctech Solar, the world’s fourth largest exporter of trackers, predicts that its new designs will increase the number of commercially viable solar projects. They expect healthy export growth ahead of their IPO on the Chinese stock exchange, which is expected next year.

The biggest hurdle with these projects is getting the light reflected back into the panel. Soil and weather conditions play a big role in how much energy the back half of the cell can absorb.

Bifacial modules produce energy on both sides. Energy is captured by the back of the panels … [+] Collecting sunlight that reflects off the floor or a mirror.

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The profitability of these bifacial solar parks varies greatly depending on the individual conditions of the project. Very few locations have the sun, soil, and weather conditions that allow optimal year-round generation. Bifacial solar vendors are known to claim that their modules increase performance by 25% or more, but these cases are far and wide.

Suitable climatic zones are typically dry desert areas with no vegetation and residents of Not in My Backyard (NMBY). One company well equipped to work in the desert is Sterling and Wilson Solar Solutions (SWSS). They won a $ 99 million contract to build 194 MW bifacial solar cells in the US, similar to their 125 MW project in Oman, which is reportedly the largest single unit bifacial solar farm in the world.

The creation of lower energy production costs for solar panels is the main goal of many manufacturers of utility scales. JinkoSolar has applied bifacial technology to its newly lauded 182mm wafer line, which has the lowest LCOE of any solar panel on the market. Their bifacial technology increases capacity by 3% over the closest competitor.

Energy agencies in the US are installing bifacial solar panels alongside tracking technology to combat land restrictions. Invenergy opened its 100th solar facility, Southern Oak Solar Park in rural Mitchell County, Georgia, and provided the county with 160 MW of clean energy. The construction employed 400 people and is expected to raise $ 12 million for the local economy. Renewable energy systems (RES) provided the technical support and supervised the construction of the plant.

The energy transition is heating up, new technologies are driving energy efficiency and reducing costs. Bifacial solar panels are just a sign.

With the assistance of Sean Moroney

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