ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BIFACIAL SOLAR PANELS

Bifacial solar cells and modules are making a big comeback as the photovoltaic industry is looking for more ways to get more power out of the extant solar panel technologies. Let us take a closer look at what bifacial solar panels are and how they actually work.

HOW DO BIFACIAL CELLS WORK?

Bifacial cells are solar cells that are designed to allow the entry of light from both sides. They employ a standard front surface design that is very similar to the ones that are used in screen printed solar cells that are practically the industry standard. The only major difference is the structure of the rear surface. It is not covered with reflective aluminum. Instead, a finger grid is used to allow the passage of sunlight through the back.

The silicon material that they use in bifacial cells is of a much higher quality, which makes it possible for the photogenerated charges on the rear surface to contribute to the power production as they travel towards the front surface. The design also makes it necessary to use transparent materials on either side of the module.

Solar Panels Diagram

Traditionally, bifacial cells were used in building integrated photovoltaic applications and in areas where most of the solar energy is in the form of diffused sunlight that has bounced off the ground and all the surrounding objects (snow prone areas and extreme latitudes). However, with the plateauing of peak efficiencies and cheaper solar glasses, bifacial modules are back in the limelight.

VERTICAL INTEGRATION

To match the photovoltaic generation profile with the onsite demand, most of the consumers go for an east-west orientation. Half of the panels are tilted towards the east and the other half are tilted towards the west, for better generation peaks in the mornings and afternoons respectively. The double peak profile better matches the electricity use onsite, especially for commercial and residential installations.

This approach will work even better if we employ vertically installed bifacial modules, which would cut down the number of required modules by more than half. Not only will this setup benefit from the two generation peaks, it will also benefit from all the diffuse light that enters the module from the indirect side.

COST COMPARISON

When comparing the financial merits of bifacial solar panels against single-sided modules, we should consider the leveled cost of electricity and not just the dollars-per-watt cost of the respective modules. For photovoltaic consumers who are connected to the grid, the ability to match the onsite demand with the photovoltaic generation profiles – thereby maximizing the use of the generated photovoltaic electricity rather than feeding it back into the American grids at a reduced rate – can significantly boost the returns on solar panel investment, in spite of the slightly higher upfront cost of the bifacial solar module. You get a better bell curve distribution of generated power and the maintenance costs are pretty much the same. So, if you are planning to go for one, it helps to know that the benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks.

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NET ENERGY METERING 3.0 INFORMATION

Net Energy Metering 3.0 (NEM 3.0) is the incoming law created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The new tariffs and fees will impact both residential and commercial solar systems built in California. 

As this notice is posted in November of 2022, the Proposed Decision from the CPUC outlining the proposed NEM 3.0 terms is expected soon. This comes after a year’s delay. Once the new agreement is finalized and passed into law, there will exist a designation of the deadline under which new systems will continue to qualify for NEM 2.0 rates. 

The new NEM 3.0 rates will be designed to lower the value of electricity during the daytime hours, when solar is producing, and increase the value of electricity during the evening hours, when solar homes and businesses purchase electricity. In short, NEM 3.0 will create a “sell low, buy high” proposition to new solar system owners. 

To Californians looking to install a solar system on their home or commercial building, the NEM 2.0 rates will be preferred. As of this post, the solar industry does not know the details of how different the NEM 3.0 rates will be from the NEM 2.0 rates. 

Please use the HES Solar website as a resource to learn more, and please take our offer to speak with an HES Solar Energy Consultant at no obligation.

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Robert Laverty

Senior Energy Consultant, Residential

Robert Laverty joined the HES team in the summer of 2018, bringing his ten years of solar design experience and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound with him. Robert is dedicated to finding solutions to help families produce and store electricity in order to reduce their reliance on grid power as well as help reduce their household’s carbon footprint. Robert’s experience as a newspaper editor as well as his involvement with the sustainability-focused Rocky Mountain Institute drives him to constantly seek out innovative ways to meet energy needs through renewable resources as well as helps him share those ideas with Southern California homeowners. When not at work or volunteering time with his church or community, Robert spends time with his wife and two sons or pursues his passion of fly fishing.
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