Project Description

The Bifacial Advantage

St. Lawrence College Research Project

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

This project was developed and completed by Sustainable Energy Applied Research Centre using 22 solar modules.

The test proposed to install 12 panels each to be installed at three different angles – 20°, 30° and 40°. The goal was to facilitate the comparison of snow-shedding rates between tilt angles for different panel types.

The test proposed to mount half of the modules at each tilt angle to be mounted in portrait with the other half mounted in landscape.  The variables mounting orientations was to determine if panel orientation played any noticeable role in accelerated snow-shedding.

During the summer months, for which the data collected is most reliable, a minimum bifacial gain of 10% is seen at the 20° tilt angle for the framed bifacial panels. The winter period’s relative bifacial gains gradually increase, with the two highest relative gains coming during the solar year’s typically worst period overall (Dec. 2016 and Jan.-Feb. 2017). 

Overall the study’s bifacial panels overall performed better than their monofacial counterparts throughout the year, at all tilt angles. The higher albedo factor of snowfall accumulation underneath the panels can be considered the primary driver of an increasing rate of bifacial gain from December through mid-February.  

The study also found that there is no appreciable negative impact on the performance of bifacial panels mounted conventionally with rail running behind the rear side of the panel.  Secondly, PV panels capable of self-shedding of major snowfall accumulations at low tilt angles should offer a greater energy production in winter than standard modules in locations with high snowfall patterns. The bifacial panels tested in this study shed snow at a 20° tilt angle faster than monofacial panels shed snow at 40°, and showed lower snow-related production losses at all angles than monofacial panels in the same conditions.

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