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Bifacial solar panels are the new go-to choice for utility-scale projects. They already represent up to half of US installed solar capacity. In this expert review, we will introduce you to the best bifacial solar panels of 2023 and explain how they can benefit your solar project.
Bifacial solar panels capture light with both sides of the module, which makes them more efficient than traditional panels. These panels can generate up to 30% more energy than their monofacial counterparts. The success depends on the correct installation and albedo which is the amount of light reflected off the ground.
While the front side of a bifacial solar panel makes use of direct sunlight, the rear side mostly absorbs reflected sunlight. It can come from surfaces with high reflectivity such as snow, water, and nearby buildings. For example, a bifacial panel installed on a white rooftop can produce up to 15% more energy than a traditional monofacial panel due to the high albedo of the roof.
Bifacial panels tend to do better in low-light conditions, such as on cloudy days and in the winter. They also have a lower temperature coefficient than traditional panels, which means they are less affected by high temperatures and can operate more efficiently in hot climates. In addition, some bifacial panels have a dual-glass design that protects them from environmental factors and increases their durability over time.
Double-glass modules are great when you want as much power as possible. When you factor in the bifacial gain, the efficiency of bifacial panels can go over 27% which is far greater than the highest conversion rates of monofacial panels.
High efficiency is why you often see bifacial modules in commercial and industrial projects. For example, they represented 30-50% of all US installations, given that in 2021 utility-scale PV systems made up over 70% of installed capacity, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Bifacial systems produce 6-10% more energy while being only 5% more expensive.
Homeowners rarely use bifacial panels: it’s hard to get high bifacial gain with a rooftop installation. Bifacial modules can be a good choice for a backyard installation or a system by the pool. A particular case where bifacial panels are used is a solar pergola. The reason is aesthetic. A set of bifacial panels resemble a glass roof so when you look up, it’s more pleasant to look at than a plastic back sheet of standard panels.
While bifacial solar panels may seem a no-brainer, they are not the best choice in every situation. Below are the main pros and cons of this type of panels to help you decide in your particular situation.
• Higher energy yield. Bifacial panels can generate up to 30% more energy compared to traditional solar panels because they capture sunlight with both sides.
• Better performance in low light conditions. Bifacial panels do well on cloudy days and in the winter. Snow in particular increases their bifacial gain.
• Durability. Bifacial panels tend to last longer because they have a glass layer on both sides which offers better protection against environmental factors like hailstorms or strong winds.
• Aesthetics. Bifacial panels are more aesthetically pleasing because they have a transparent backsheet which allows them to blend better with the environment.
• Higher cost. Bifacial solar panels are more expensive compared to standard solar panels due to the additional materials and technology needed to manufacture them. The total installation cost of a bifacial system is around 5% higher than monofacial panels.
• Installation. The production of bifacial panels depends on the way they are installed and the reflectivity of a surface. Complex installation can add to increased costs.
• Maintenance. Bifacial panels require more cleaning than traditional solar panels because they capture dirt and dust with both sides.
• Limited applications. Bifacial panels are mostly used in large-scale projects but they often aren’t the best choice for your typical home rooftop installation.
If you're looking to buy bifacial solar panels for your project, you want to make sure you're investing in the best option available. That's why we've consulted with a seasoned solar engineer to compile a list of the top three bifacial solar panels on the market today. Below are our expert's picks for the best bifacial solar panels in 2023.
Bifacial PV modules usually come with a 30-year warranty for performance, whereas standard panels get a 25-year coverage. Double-glass panels also tend to age slower so it’s a good investment in the future.
This 440 W bifacial module can produce up to 30% more energy than a standard 440 W solar panel, making the payback period shorter. It is recommended to install these bifacial modules 3 ft away from the ground or roof to maintain the energy yield of the module's rear side. This is easier to achieve in a ground-mounted system. Aptos provides a 25-year product and a 30-year performance warranty, which says a lot about the expected lifespan of the panels. You’re unlikely to ever need this warranty though — the failure rate of Aptos solar panels is below 0.01%.
This 390 W Trina panel is a great choice for commercial-size installations where you want to squeeze as much production from the available space as possible. Back side gives up to 25% more production, depending on how well the surface reflects the light. That means that technically you get a 500+ W panel if the rear side is working at full power. The panel comes with a 12-year product warranty and a 30-year performance warranty: after 30 years you end up with over 83% of rated power output.
This Canadian Solar 450 W solar panel has a high power output of 450 watts with an efficiency surpassing 20%. The bifaciality of the model further increases its energy yield, making it an equal of 600 W panels under the right circumstances. Additionally, the panel's anti-glare glass minimizes light reflection, adding yet another boost to its energy production capabilities. Overall, the combination of high efficiency, bifacial technology, and rugged build quality make the Canadian Solar BiHiKu 450 W solar panel one of the best models in Canadian Solar's lineup.
Illustrations – Natalya Absalyamova
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