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The benefits of bifacial solar panels to the Scottish economy

Friday January 11th, 2019

Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with industry partners Wood, is building a model that aims to highlight the benefits of the country moving to double-sided solar panels (bifacial solar cells) rather than using the current single-sided panels (monofacial).Solar_Panel

Bifacial cells can produce up to 25% more energy with the same projected area due to their ability to convert irradiation captured on both the front and rear sides. However, their current market share remains very low at around 5%.

According to the Solar Trade Association (1), the installed capacity of Scottish solar panels will rise to 1.5GW by 2030. The 25% enhanced energy yield of bifacial versus monofacial panels with the same projected area, could mean generation would increase to almost 2GW.

This would equate to:

  • £400m of additional annual revenue to the Scottish economy
  • Over 2000 new jobs
  • £200m a year energy savings for Scottish industry and households
  • Over half a billion kgCO2/year emissions reduction

Dr Mehreen Gul, Assistant Professor from the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS) explains: “Although the development of bifacial solar cells dates back to the 1970s, due to the expensive cell structure, bifacial modules have remained a niche product in the market.

“In contrast to single sided cells, bifacial cells collect radiation on the front and rear side as they capture light reflected from the surface beneath the module and from the surroundings. On flat roofs, ground-mounted installations or locations that might not initially seem the best for a solar panel, bifaciality can improve energy generation by up to 25% more than standard panels.

“The advent of new and economically viable glass provides the ideal technology for generating higher energy yields. However, before this technology sees large-scale market distribution, several hurdles have to be overcome. Unlike single-sided panels, we need to examine the ‘albedo’ (light reflectivity) of the surface underneath the panel that can affect performance and then make accurate energy yield assessments by adapting and using state-of-the-art modelling tools. We will also perform a detailed investigation into high albedo surfaces in relation to radiation augmentation of bifacial modules, ageing, degradation, costs and environmental impact.”

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