Pros and Cons of Bifacial Solar Panels
Find Out if New Higher Energy Technology Works for Your Home or Business
If you’re looking for a way produce the most power per solar panel, you should ask your solar contractor about bifacial solar panels, one of the latest advances in solar technology.
Instead of the usual backsheet on the underside, bifacial panels employ solar cells on both sides of the panel, which allows them to absorb sunlight on two sides at once.
How can the underside of a solar panel receive solar energy? Because light reflects off the ground. And depending on the color and material on the surface below the solar panels, you can collect quite a bit of reflected sunlight this way.
But, bifacial panels don’t work in every situation. Use this list of the pros and cons of bifacial solar panels to help you decide if they might be a good option for your home or business.
The Pros of Bifacial Solar Panels
More Energy from the Same Number of Panels
‘Solar efficiency’ is the term for how much sunlight gets converted into solar energy. The highest quality panels, called ‘tier 1’ panels, currently operate at around 20% efficiency, give or take. With bifacial panels, you will produce more energy per panel because they get energy from both sides.
And even if your panels are situated facing east or west, they will produce energy throughout the day.
If you have limited space for solar panels, sometimes bifacial panels can help you achieve greater solar production than would normally be possible, especially if you can create an awning or similar structure with the panels as the covering.
More Durable than One-Sided Panels
Bifacial panels have glass covers on both sides, which makes them more durable than conventional panels.
It might sound odd that glass is more durable, but this is a very particular type of glass called tempered glass. It is very, very strong. In fact, quality control testing has shown you can drive cars over solar panels without cracking them, and hit them with projectiles comparable to high-speed winds (but please don’t try this!).
The greater durability of bifacial panels has led some manufacturers, such as our top choice brand, Canadian Solar, to offer unheard-of 30-year warranties on their bifacial panels.
Better Reliability than Trackers
Trackers have, up until now, been the only way to increase solar production beyond the norm of static solar arrays. Trackers are mechanical systems that adjust the angle of the solar panel to follow the position of the sun throughout the day. They produce more power as a result. But they also cost quite a bit more, so they don’t necessarily reduce the time it takes to recover your investment.
But the bigger issue with trackers is one that is true with any mechanical device. More moving parts means more ways to break down, and trackers have been known to cause problems. Even though you might have a 25-year warranty on your panels, if the trackers break down before then, you’ll either have to spend more to get them back to working order, or just let them stay broken. But if you do that, then there wasn’t much point in buying them.
With bifacial panels, you get comparable higher production per panel but with no moving parts. Bifacial panels – if they will work in your situation – have eliminated most of the reasons to consider paying extra for trackers.
Ideal for Ground Mounted Arrays
To maximize reflected sunlight, also called albedo light, your solar contractor will likely want to space out your bifacial panels in some way. This allows more light to get between and around them. With rooftop arrays that can be tricky to do unless you have a large enough roof. Otherwise, the benefits of higher per-panel production will be offset by having fewer panels on the roof.
But with ground-mounted arrays, most homeowners and businesses who have room for them will be able to space them out enough to maximize reflected light.
Normally, bifacial panels do cost more than conventional panels. But with Coastal Solar this may not be the case, because we have a long-standing relationship with Canadian Solar, our top choice for bifacial panels. Our relationship with them enables us to get bifacial panels for lower prices than most others can get, and we can pass these savings on to you.
With our proprietary discounts, we can offer bifacial panels to our customers for comparable prices as the highest quality regular panels.
The Cons of Bifacial Solar Panels
Harder to Use on a Roof
If you have a flat or nearly flat roof, you can still use bifacial panels effectively because you have more control of the angles. But if your roof has a sharper angle or is multi-directional and you don’t have room on the ground for a ground mounted system, it will be hard to make bifacial panels economical.
For these situations, we recommend top quality tier 1 mono-facial panels from Sunpower, Solaria, or REC. All of these are visually appealing, have high production efficiency, durable materials, and 25-year warranties.
More Costly Most of the Time
As mentioned earlier, bifacial panels cost more than one-sided panels. The technology is newer and more advanced. However, because they also produce more energy, you need to do the math to find out if they are a better option for you even if they cost a bit more up front.
A panel that costs more but also produces more energy might still be a better deal, because you would need fewer of them to produce the same amount of energy.
Works Best with a Reflective Surface Underneath
If you just have grass or bark dust underneath a bifacial panel array, your secondary production will be significantly lower than if you can get a white, silver, or sandy surface installed. If it will be cost-prohibitive to install a more reflective surface, you may decide the extra production you would have earned isn’t worth it.
Find Out if Bifacial Solar Panels Might Work for You
The only way to really know is to ask your solar contractor to include bifacial panels as one of the options in your bid. That way, you’ll find out if your home or business is a viable candidate for bifacials.
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