Soaking in the Sun from Two Sides

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Field Tests Indicate Up to 30% Energy Boost for Bifacial Solar Modules

“Bifacial” solar modules“Bifacial” solar modules offer the promise for greater electricity output, but they face significant challenges to widespread adoption, according to an EPRI technology assessment.

A key R&D focus in solar is increasing electricity generation over the lifetime of a solar power plant, and bifacial solar modules represent a potential step forward. Under controlled experimental conditions, these modules can boost power generation by as much as 50% relative to traditional modules, but field tests suggest an increase of 5–30%. The wide range is a result of factors such as plant design, the ground surface’s albedo, and shading.

Bifacial modules cost more than conventional solar products (in dollars per square meter) because they require modifications to manufacturing equipment, processes, and materials. Increased market adoption may drive cost reductions through economies of scale.

A current barrier to broader use is the lack of an accurate model of power and energy generation to provide system owners with more certainty about product performance and financial benefits. Sandia National Laboratories, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, EPRI, and others are conducting field demonstrations to assess the technology’s performance, and its use is being piloted in commercial power plants.

Also needed is a method to rate a bifacial module’s nameplate power. Through the International Electrotechnical Commission, industry stakeholders are developing a technical specification to provide guidance on this rating. This can assist in developing a common approach for calculating the cost of bifacial modules (in dollars per watt).

Artwork by Kirk Anderson