If you have to wear sunglasses while facing the sun, you understand the benefit of bifacial panels. Because sunlight shines on most surfaces and solar panels use sunlight to generate electricity, a bifacial solar panel collects sunlight on its front and back.
Bifacial solar panels can produce more electricity than their conventional counterparts, but only if they have space for reflected light to reach the back side of the panel. That means they work best in specific applications, and not when they’re stuck on your roof. If you’re installing solar panels on a pergola or a ground-mounted system, bifacial panels make sense.
If you are thinking about installing solar at home, read on, and and to power your home.
How do bifacial panels work?
The light of the sun reflects, in varying degrees, on all things. If you’ve ever been outside after dark when there’s snow on the ground, you’ve probably noticed how much lighter it is than when there’s no snow. This effect has implications for climate change. Research shows that ice reflects about 85% of sunlight, but open water reflects only 7%. As the Arctic ice melts, the water below absorbs more light (and heat).
All this to say, there is enough light bouncing around to generate electricity on the back side of the panel as well. To get the most out of bifacial panels, there are some important considerations.
First, the more reflective the environment around the panels, the more energy they get. A lighter colored environment will reflect more light and improve performance. “We found that as the grass becomes brown, it is more reflective, and the snow cover is good,” a researcher said in a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It also means that desert countries, such as Australia, with a lot of reflective sand are adopting bifacial panels faster than their neighbors, consulting firm Wood Mackenzie reported.
Second, there must be space for reflected light to reach the back of the panel. This means that bifacial panels do not make sense for roofs where they sit almost right on the shingles. They are best used in large, commercial installations where they are in the air on poles, with plenty of space for the light to shine against the back.
Bifacial panels outperform traditional, single-faced panels year-round. Under ideal conditions, the bifacial panel can produce 27% more energy.
Bifacial panels can work at home
Bifacial panels are less expensive than other solar panel options, so they are attractive options if you have the right space for them. Although there is no benefit to installing it on a roof, homeowners may opt for bifacial panels in some instances.
If your solar panels are mounted on the ground instead of on a roof, bifacial panels may be a good choice. This is especially the case if you live in an area with snow or you can install it on a highly reflective surface, such as sand.
Bifacial panels can also be useful when they are used to cover an outdoor area. A pergola or awning with an open space underneath has enough distance from the ground to allow reflected light to reach the back of the panel. Creative people will likely find other ways to deploy bifacial panels.
Although not helpful in most residential applications, bifacial panels are another tool that can help you squeeze a little more energy out of the sun. Using it in the right situation can help you reach your energy goals at a small premium.