Time To Go Bifacial Has Come

There is No Reason To Wait For Solar Module Makers To Expand Into Bifacial Technology As A Report from TaiyangNews Shows
03:37 AM (Beijing Time) - 16. November 2017

It makes a lot sense to generate power from both sides of a solar cell – in particular now, as the move away from aluminum-BSF to advanced cell concepts is a main driver, because these devices are bifacial by nature. As the TaiyangNews Bifacial Solar Module Technology 2017 Report shows, there is no big efforts or expenses to get the bifacial bonus, which depending on location and technology is between 5 and 30%. (The picture shows a 2.5 MW solar system in Chile using ISC Konstanz' BiSon bifacial cell technology; Photo Credit: ISC Konstanz)

Like with any new technology, it needs the right time innovations can be turned into mass production at competitive cost. For bifacial solar, this time is now, over half a decade after its invention in 1960.

There is both push and pull factors coming nicely together for bifacial today.

On the product side, everything’s set to kick-start bifacial technology on a large scale. Continued cost pressure pushes manufacturers to higher ef cient low-cost cell solutions. And the move away from aluminum-BSF to advanced cell concepts is a main driver as these devices are bifacial by nature. There is no big efforts or expenses to get the bifacial bonus, which depending on location and technology is between 5 and 30%. With PERC having already conquered the monocrystalline space, nearly every solar cell maker involved in PERC is now also seriously evaluating bifacial. While n-type wafers are still more expensive, the bifacial gain is much higher than for p-type PERC, which is why companies are starting to look into this technology as well.

With large investors having entered the solar industry and long-term system yields becoming increasingly important as developers have to bid in tenders to win Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and solar even starting to compete with other power generation technologies, now it is primarily about low levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). And that’s what’s needed to pull bifacial technology finally.

When TaiyangNews attended the world’s largest solar show SNEC 2017 in Shanghai in April, we saw bifacial modules on display on the booth of nearly each of the leading module manufacturers. Several have already reserved considerable production space on its lines, such as the world’s leading mono maker LONGi, which has started with 300 MW – and is already ready to do more. There are also companies that focus 100% on bifacial technology, like Linyang from Shanghai, which has begun production on a 700 MW line.

Bifacial technology has to overcomes still a number of teething problems. The major issue is the lack of standardization, but a new IEC standard to measure and label bifacial products is in the final stages and supposed to be ready for publication in 2018. Others issues are missing data and bankability, but this issue will be rapidly solved as the number of installations using bifacial PV has finally started to grow quickly and several tier 1 module producers having entered this field.

Based on our research with leading PV manufacturers, scientists and equipment makers, TaiyangNews in its Bifacial Solar Module Technology 2017 Report estimates that bifacial technology would have an installed production capacity of 4 GW in 2017, which is supposed to would double to about 8 GW in 2018. While the actual production would account for only around 10%, or about 300 to 400 MW of the total bifacial capacity this year, this should increase dramatically next year. The International Roadmap for Photovoltaic (ITRPV) roadmap anticipates that from an almost negligible presence today, the bifacial concept is expected to gain a 10% market share in 2019, 20% in 2021, and 35% in 10 years.

In the end it will depend on how fast the industry will be able to abandon the age-old aluminum BSF cell design. In any case, the bifacial concept and its “free” benefits are a very good argument to move faster.

After an English version of  the Bifacial Solar Module Technology 2017 Report was published at Intersolar Europe 2017, an updated Chinese version  will be published today during the 13th CSPV in Xuzhou, China in November.


Michael Schmela

Michael Schmela is the managing director of TaiyangNews. He also runs Mischco, a company that offers strategy consulting and communication services to solar companies. Michael also serves as the Executive Advisor to European Solar Sector's Lobby Association Solar Power Europe.

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Michael Schmela