This research project relates to challenges connected to vertical mounting of bifacial solar panels.
While bifacial solar panels have been available for decades, it is only in the last few years that the underlying silicon solar cell technologies have matured enough for bifacial solar panels to compete with conventional monofacial solar panels on a cost-benefit basis.
Bifacial solar panels are, by 2022, in widespread use, but the mounting systems and geometries used are similar to conventional mounting systems for monofacial panels. However, bifacial panels allow for a completely new way of mounting to take maximum advantage of both sides: Vertical mounting.
In vertical mounting and oriented with each surface in the east-west direction, the panels receive about the same amount of light on both sides, and earlier studies suggest that such mounting can give yields that outperform traditional mounting of monofacial solar panels.
The principle of vertical bifacial solar panels is easy to understand, but it brings in several new challenges that we aim to scrutinize in this project. One of them is the estimation of energy production, because simulation software has been developed to accurately simulate the performance of solar panels that face the sun and receive direct and indirect light from the sky, while in vertical mounting there are large components of reflected light that are less accurately estimated. Secondly, the vertical mounting gives wind forces that differ from that experienced in traditional and more horizontally mounted systems. Thirdly, physical exposure to the elements, especially UV light and rain/humidity is substantially different in vertically mounted systems.
The project will support Over Easy Solar’s plans to commercialize a new type of solar module.
About 50% of all solar cell capacity worldwide is installed on buildings. Yet, about 90% of roof areas on buildings are not utilized for any purpose, and, even in 2021, new buildings with excellent solar conditions are being built without solar installations.
Over Easy Solar is developing a novel concept for a solar module with extremely efficient and simple installation for flat roofs. The solution has been made possible by recent development within bifacial solar cells. Patent-pending, the solution has been tested in a working prototype during summer 2021, where we demonstrated 10x faster mounting, good energy yields and a power production profile that will be of high value for future customers. The way Over Easy mounts the bifacial solar panels is unconventional; they are vertically aligned and, ideally, receiving equal amounts of light on both sides. Standard energy simulation software for solar installations is not fine-tuned for this, and there is almost no field data publicly available for different climates and locations. This is a high risk for the company and future customers, and research is needed to develop the simulation models and obtain production data.
The vertical mounting also gives different exposure to wind loads. Indeed, mostly positive for our concept, which will not depend on fastening to the roof or ballast. However, to certify the components and avoid any incidents, research on the effects of wind is needed.
The different design also demands research on the strength and durability of the components in the solution. We want to minimize the material usage to reduce climate impact, but at the same time have a strong and durable structure.
The project will enable Over Easy to develop a high-quality and highly innovative solar product with a global market. The knowledge developed in the project will be unique and may find other utilizations in solar tech, and create interest and buzz around solar innovations from Norway.