What are Bifacial Solar Panels?
Bifacial (“two-faced”) Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels can capture solar power from both sides of the panel. Bifacial solar panels offer many advantages over traditional solar panels. Power can be produced from both sides of a bifacial module, increasing total energy generation. In general, more power can be generated from bifacial modules for the same area.
Traditional solar panels capture sunlight on one light-absorbing side. The light energy that cannot be captured is simply reflected away. Bifacial solar panels have solar cells on both sides, which enables the panels to absorb light from the back and the front. Practically speaking, this means that a bifacial solar panel can absorb light reflected off the ground or another material.
Bifacial solar panels can be effective in specific residential applications like pergolas and some ground-mounted systems. Bifacial panels are best used in commercial or utility-scale applications where panels are elevated and angled away from a mounting surface, allowing light to reflect into the back of the panel.
The efficiency gain depends greatly on the installation. Still, bifacial panels, on average, may see a 6-9% improvement in output over a conventional “mono facial” panel.
Free-standing structures like pergolas can benefit from bifacial panels, which will provide partial shade in addition to generating energy. Bifacial panels can also be used in any other case where there is nothing directly behind the solar panels. For example, awnings and canopies made from bifacial solar panels allow reflected light to reach the back of the panels.
Bifacial modules come in many designs. Some are framed, while others are frameless. Some are dual-glass, and others use transparent back sheets.
How are bifacial modules installed?
The way a bifacial module is mounted depends on its type. A framed bifacial module might be easier to install than frameless, just because traditional mounting and racking systems are already adapted to framed models. Most bifacial module manufacturers provide their own clamps to mount their specific brand, taking away any installation hesitations.
For frameless bifacial modules, the module clamps will often feature rubber guards to protect the glass. Special care must be taken to prevent over-tightening bolts and damage to the glass.
The higher a bifacial module is tilted, the more power it produces from its bifacial properties. Bifacial modules mounted flush to a rooftop block any reflected light from reaching the backside of the cells. That’s why bifacial modules perform better on flat commercial rooftops and ground-mounted arrays because there is more room for tilt and bouncing reflected light to the rear of the modules.
The mounting system itself can affect the performance of the bifacial modules. Racking systems with support rails usually covered by a mono facial module’s back sheet will shade back rows of bifacial cells. Junction boxes on bifacial panels have become smaller or separated into multiple units positioned along the panel’s edge to prevent shading, too. Mounting and racking systems specially formatted for bifacial installations take out the question of backside shading.
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