RatedPower & The Bifacial Revolution

More than 150GW simulated using bifacial modules in only a month!

According to the IEA, renewables will be the only energy source likely to experience demand growth for the rest of 2020. The solar industry is taking advantage of this growth by leading the way into digitalization and adopting more cost-efficient solutions such as bifacial modules.

The bifacial technology market has been growing beyond expectations in recent years due to higher efficiencies and lower levelized costs of electricity (LCOE). Recent data by Infolink and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables expects global bifacial demand to reach 12 GW in 2020 and 20 GW in 2024. In terms of market share, according to the International Roadmap for Photovoltaic (ITRPV), bifacial technology adoption is expected to grow from 12% in 2019 to nearly 60% of total global installations by 2029.

Given the potential of the bifacial technologies, the main question is whether the industry will be able to overcome its main challenges: bifacial system gain, simulating the results, standardization and bankability.

RatedPower, a young company revolutionizing the design and engineering of solar plants by advancing traditional engineering processes with pvDesign software, recently launched its own bifacial energy yield model. This model enables pvDesign users to experience first hand the gain they might obtain using bifacial technology. Since the introduction of the bifacial energy yield model on the 19th of May, pvDesign clients have run over 1,000 simulations (155.59 GW) in more than 100 countries in 5 different continents. This represents more than 36% of total GW simulated in pvDesign during this period.

Before jumping into any conclusion, 7 key parameters that affect the energy yield must be considered when developing solar plants with bifacial modules: the irradiance factors, the module efficiency, the ground albedo, the tilt angle, the elevated height to the ground of the structure, the ground cover ratio (GCR) and the array shading.

Bifacial modules take advantage of the light reflected from the ground and received by the rear side. The proportion of that light reflected off the ground is known as albedo and it is directly related to the type of soil. The higher the albedo factor, the higher the power gain.

Following the albedo, the height of the structure to the ground is another of the key parameters when simulating with bifacial technology. Increasing the height improves the backside irradiance uniformity, therefore increasing bifacial power gain due to improved perception of ground-reflected light on the rear side.

Additionally, a third parameter to be considered is the GCR, the ratio between the area occupied by PV modules and the total available area. This ratio is directly related to the pitch distance, the inter-row spacing between tables of PV modules. Decreasing the GCR implies a greater pitch distance, thus increased specific energy production.

Industry experts believe that typical project energy production gains are, on average, 3-10% and up to 30% on optimal scenarios. The report "Modelling of Single-Axis Tracking Gain for Bifacial PV Systems" predicts that for a low ground albedo factor of 0.25 corresponding to vegetation/soil, ground-mounted bifacial solar modules can only achieve bifacial gain up to 10% relative to their monofacial counterpart across the entire world. On the other hand, on "Optimization and performance of bifacial solar modules" the gains in terms of specific production (kWh/kWp) can be estimated to be between 5% and 15% for "normal" ground albedos (0.2-0.5) in the case of fixed-tilt structures, and between 3% and 11% for 1 axis trackers in comparison to standard PV plants.

To confirm the above market assumptions and the bifacial gain ratios obtained by the different technological reports, we have simulated with pvDesign our own analysis using the following parameters:

● Commercial module 425 W STC, 1500V, and a 75% of bifaciality factor.
● GCR of 50%
● Ground Clearance (elevated height to the ground) of 1.10m
● Fixed structures and trackers
● Different locations (California and Iceland) and albedo factors (normal satellital albedo 0.21, optimal desert conditions 0.36 and snow satellital conditions in Iceland of 0.68).

When comparing fixed structures with trackers, our analysis found out that fixed structures obtain a 6% higher bifacial gain compared to trackers (4.45% to 4.17% respectively) in realistic satellital albedo of 0.21. These ratios would increase to 7.3% and 6.83% respectively in optimal conditions in California with sand albedos of 0.36.

On the other hand, in scenarios with higher albedos (0.68) and latitudes such as Iceland, the percentage of bifacial gains ascended to 16.55% in the case of fixed structures and 12.65% for trackers.

In terms of specific production kWh/kWp, trackers outperform fixed structures resulting in 12.5% and 16.2% higher specific production kWh/kWp in albedos of 0.21 and 0.68 respectively.

In conclusion, pvDesign's simulation numbers are a perfect worldwide snapshot of what is really happening concerning the adoption of bifacials and the industry preferences: pvDesign simulations obtained bifacial gains up to 10%, with better results in high-albedo scenarios (up to 16%). Furthermore, fixed structures were found to obtain higher bifacial gains than single-axis trackers (using the same GCR), but still lower yield specific production than trackers.

Featured Product

OMNISTAR GAS ANALYZER - Fast accurate analysis from % to sub-ppm in a compact, turnkey benchtop system.

OMNISTAR GAS ANALYZER - Fast accurate analysis from % to sub-ppm in a compact, turnkey benchtop system.

The Pfeiffer Vacuum OmniStar benchtop analysis system offers you a compact footprint, powerful software and Ethernet connectivity. It's the optimum solution for many real-time gas analysis applications. With the OmniStar, Pfeiffer Vacuum offers you a complete solution for gas analysis, in chemical processes, semiconductor industry, metallurgy, fermentation, catalysis, laser technology and environmental analysis. The turnkey OmniStar gas analysis system consists of heated, temperature-regulated gas inlet system, Quadrupole mass spectrometer, a dry diaphragm vacuum pump and HiPace turbopump. Unlike competing methods such as FTIR, OmniStar is suitable for qualitative and quantitative analysis of most gases.