Bifacial solar panels - What you need to know

17 January 2022 at Waaree

In the solar market, another significant product development is rising. Bifacial solar panels that can absorb sunlight from both the front and rear end are an intriguing new solar alternative for some types of solar systems.

The traditional solar panels are also known as mono facial panels that can absorb light from only one surface, thus wasting the light energy that does not get absorbed. On the other hand, the bifacial solar panels are different from the conventional panels as they come with solar cells equipped on both sides. This mechanism helps the solar panel absorb the solar energy from both sides that enhance energy consumption. In this article, we will primarily focus on bifacial solar panels.

What is a Bifacial Cell?

Initially, bifacial solar cells were concerned with extreme latitudes and snow‑prone regions where solar energy is present as diffused sunlight that has bounced off the ground and surrounding objects or in BIPV applications. However, advanced bifacial solar cells allow simultaneous and efficient light conversion from both sides into electricity by employing an upgraded surface design.

Bifacial cells usually use a front surface design that is comparable to that of industry-standard screen-printed solar cells, with the main variation being the structure of the back surface contact. A ' finger ' grid allows sunlight to pass through the back instead of using a reflective aluminum contact to cover the full-back surface.

What is Bifacial Solar Panel?

Traditional solar panels have several disadvantages that bifacial solar modules do not. A bifacial panel can generate power from both sides, boosting overall electricity production. They are frequently more resilient since both sides are UV resistant, and when the bifacial solar panel is structurally sound, the risk of potentially induced deterioration (PID) gets diminished. When more electricity is available, the cost of the balance of the system (BOS) gets reduced as well.

When bifacial panels are placed on a brightly transparent material (such as a white TPO ceiling or the ground with light-colored boulders), additional electricity is produced from the backside. This additionally generated electricity can further result in a 30 per cent increase in productivity and more efficient and clean air.

Bifacial modules are obtainable in a variety of styles. Quite a few of them are mounted, while others are not. Some even have dual-glass back sheets, while others have transparent back sheets. The majority of the time, crystalline silicon cells are used, however, polycrystalline models are also available. Alas, one thing remains consistent, and that is the power generated from both sides.

There are also many different types of panels like frameless or dual glass modules that expose the rear area of the cells. However, these cells are still not considered bifacial. The actual bifacial panels consist of bus bars located on both the front and rear sides of the cells.

Also read: How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?

The mono facial solar panels are placed in the form of parallel racks on the rooftop. However, the bifacial panels will produce more energy if they get installed at different or tilted angles from the ground.

Several commercial applications, such as pergolas and some ground-mounted systems, can benefit from bi-facial solar panels. However, bifacial panels are not appropriate for the majority of property owners considering a rooftop deployment.

These bifacial panels are best employed in industrial or communication infrastructures where panels are tilted and angled away from a mounting surface, allowing light to reflect towards the panel. Nowadays, bifacial solar panels are on par with traditional solar panels as they provide greater efficiency and also use up less space than conventional solar panels.

Also, when used residentially, bifacial solar panels are very productive. Especially, the transparent surfaces provide extremely clean and efficient energy when compared with conventional panels. Like every technological advancement, there are advantages and disadvantages of bifacial solar panels. Let’s look at the benefits and limitations of bifacial solar panels.

Benefits of Bifacial Solar Panel

Bifacial solar panels may represent the industry's future. There are tons of benefits of bifacial panels over the traditional ones. Some of them are listed below:

  • Efficiency
  • Fewer bifacial solar panels can reliably generate the same degree of solar power as a typical mono-facial solar array. Being 11-12% more efficient, bifacial panels can reduce the LCOE(Levelized Cost of Energy) by increasing the total energy generation of similar-sized projects.

    Besides higher performance, bifacial panels also overcome the limitation of high temperatures. Their glass composition channels lower working temperatures without the heat-absorbing aluminum backing of mono-facial panels.

  • Durability
  • The tempered glass strengthens the light-absorbing capacity of the panel and provides a sounding edge. Owners are also entitled to extended warranties given Potential-induced Degradation (PID) concerns for bifacial solar panels by both sides being UV resistant.

    In addition to the durable manufacturing, the panels are also equipped for providing a reliable shield in case of any bad weather conditions.

  • Design
  • Not tampering with the aesthetics of the facade is an inherent benefit due to its sleek design that passes sunlight directly. Moreover, the design of the bifacial panels aids in putting them into service for various purposes such as awnings, barriers, or pergolas, depending on the location.

  • Accommodativeness
  • Bifacial solar panels' performance is independent of the angle of their installation as they can even be fixed at 90°. Furthermore, space utilization is also updated since fewer panels are now fulfilling the energy requirements.

  • Cost-effective
  • Determined by a study, bifacial panels on solar trackers decrease power costs by 16%. Additionally, the glass utilized is 20-30% cheaper than the transparent sheets employed in mono-facial panels. Bifacial panel owners also benefit from a proportional decrease in labor and maintenance costs. Since more power can be generated from bifacial modules in a smaller array footprint, BOS equipment, and related costs are also diminished.

    Read further: How efficient are solar panels in 2022?

Limitations of Bifacial Solar Panel

Even though there are innumerable benefits of bifacial solar panels, there are certain drawbacks as well. Let's look at some of the disadvantages of a bifacial solar panel.

  • Bulky
  • Contrary to the mono-facial panels, bifacial solar panels embody a fair share of weight that might hinder adjustments and demand care. Examining the installation space would be sensible since the modules are approximately 15-20 pounds above the conventional panels. The consumer would be wise to have a professional solar engineer assess the roof's structural integrity before installation for reliable judgment.

  • Suitability
  • The panel's design restricts its installation locations, and the models function best with a reflective surface. Their double-sided cells reduce compatibility with rooftops. However, you can still use bifacial panels effectively on a flatter roof by managing the angles. Bifacial solar panels need open space and a reflective surface underneath to achieve optimal energy outputs.

  • Cost
  • Even with higher total upfront costs, the added cost of the panels is less than 10%, as per the NREL research. To weigh the financial merits of single-sided versus bifacial modules, the effective leveled cost of electricity should be applied as the deciding metric aside from the rupee‑per‑peak‑watt cost of respective modules.

    While maintenance costs remain equivalent across all modules, bifacial panels also maximize the use of the generated photovoltaic electricity for amplified bell curve distribution of generated power.

Considering the performance, it would be safe to know that the benefits significantly outweigh the drawbacks as their increased efficiency allows a quicker return on their investment.

Monofacial VS. Bifacial Solar Panels

Unlike Bifacial Panels, Monofacial Panels collect light through cells on only one side and are placed in racks parallel to a surface. The price difference ranges from $0.01 to $0.10 per watt for large-scale projects between bifacial and monofacial. Results and studies have testified that bifacial modules can generate approximately 10-20% additional power over monofacial panels. Bifacial Solar Panels also deliver a longer and durable lifecycle as compared to Monofacial Solar Panels.

Can you use bifacial solar panels for residential installations?

Bifacial solar panel installation is not recommended for domestic rooftop solar systems in general. They make more sense for massive solar projects that allow reflected light to conceivably support the rear side of the solar panels.

The main reason for this use in huge projects is its projected premium on the bifacial solar panel installation as compared to conventional monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. Bifacial panels are designed specifically for industrial or utility-scale solar projects, but they can also be deployed in certain residential applications.

Bifacial panels can also be used on free-standing objects like pergolas to provide partial cover while also producing energy. Bifacial panels can also be utilized in some other scenarios where the solar panels are not squarely facing the sun.

Industrial and utility-scale solar projects, particularly those with solar trackers, are ideal solutions for bifacial solar panels. According to a study conducted by a solar panel manufacturer, bifacial panels produced 11 per cent more energy than conventional solar panels in an inclined, ground-mounted  solar panel installation. Moreover, the systems which use bifacial solar panels generate 27 per cent extra power compared to a similar traditional solar panel.

Due to their capacity to absorb photons from both sides, bifacial panels have always had the potential to increase energy output for massive solar projects. Energy from the sun that strikes the ground beneath a solar panel is reflected up and can also be collected by back-facing solar cells whenever the panel is positioned above the ground, which seems to be the case in most commercial systems.

Also, depending on the surface located below, more or less light will get retraced back to the bifacial panels. Hence, the greater the transparency of surfaces like sand will result in an increased amount of reflected sunlight as compared to less transparent surfaces like dirt or asphalt.

Bifacial panels may very well be perfect for you if you're contemplating a ground-mounted solar system instead of just a rooftop placement. A residential ground-mounted installation is hoisted up well above ground, identical to industrial and utility installations, to allow light to penetrate the rear of bifacial panels.

Professional and industrial solar manufacturers may benefit from bifacial solar panels, however, they rarely make much sense for residential rooftop projects. The simplest approach to get a fair market value on a solar panel installation, regardless of the project size, geography, or other circumstances, is to compare multiple estimates.

Waaree Energies is a pre-eminent name in the solar industry that you can readily pick to get the most efficient solar-related solutions for your home and office. Apart from this, the experts here can further assist you with all your solar panel installation and maintenance at the most economical rates.

Read more: Solar Financing Options: How To Find The Best Solar financing?

Are Bifacial Solar Panels expensive?

With an efficiency rating between 20% to 40%, Bifacial modules have lower Balance Of Systems (BOS) costs as fewer modules are needed to produce the same amount of energy as traditional modules. The performance gains through the increased light collection are just the beginning of the many advantages offered by bifacial panels over traditional systems.

Under proper installation and operation, a Bifacial Panel can effectively decrease power cost by 16% by producing up to 35% more energy than a standard, monofacial solar panel. The decreasing costs over the years have only contributed to the rise in Bifacial Solar Panels’ share in the market. The minimized cost gap brings an increase in bifacial module production. The additional costs can be compensated by the extra production costs resulting from producing the rear side of bifacial modules.

Ultimately, more bifacial module installations and real-world data are needed to verify the benefits and justify the additional costs of bifacial through LCOE analysis, which should become possible in the relatively near future. However, the unmatched performance and energy-efficient results remain an unchallenged benefit.

Final Word

Showcasing advanced performance by maximizing electricity output levels through clean energy produced while the sun is rising and setting, bifacial solar panels promise an innovative way of energy consumption. Before opting for this clean and sustainable energy source, evaluate your roof, installation space, budget, and energy consumption patterns to make a suitable investment.

Without the need for excessive electricity transmission upgrades, bifacial panels allow community solar farms to be built close to where customers need them. Explore an enhanced range of high-grade modules at Waaree's collection for your next solar energy appliance addition.

We strive for constant development in the quality of our products and services, thanks to our dedication towards our stakeholders. Waaree is India's premier EPC, project development, rooftop solutions, solar water pumps, and independent power generation company. Its 2 GW solar PV module manufacturing capacity in Surat and Umbergaon, Gujarat, is the largest in the country.

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