When the UK’s largest subsidy-free solar farm opens later this year, there will be something a bit different about its panels: unlike traditional panels that absorb energy on only one side, these panels will be absorbing sunlight from both sides. The new solar farm in York, developed by Gridserve, uses “bifacial” modules, a technology that has become one of the fastest-growing trends in solar because it helps solar panels generate more electricity. The 35-megawatt plant will generate enough power for 10,000 homes. “Bifacial panels are a no-brainer,” says Toddington Harper, chief executive of Gridserve. “In our opinion, they will be the panel of choice for the utility-scale market.” He estimates the solar farm will generate 20 per cent more energy due to its combination of bifacial solar panels and trackers that enable each panel to follow the sun, compared with traditional static photovoltaic panels. Solar has become the world’s biggest source of new electricity – it is bigger than wind, gas, or coal in terms of new installed capacity each year, according to S&P Global. Last year some $131bn was invested in solar, in spite of decreasing government subsidies, according to BloombergNEF. However the solar sector has been relatively slow to innovate on the traditional photovoltaic panel, which is now seen as a low-margin, commoditised product. While the price of solar panels has fallen dramatically in the last decade, the improvement in the physical performance of standard panels has not changed nearly as much. That could shift though, as subsidies for renewable decline, according to solar executives and analysts. In the absence of subsidies, projects that are more efficient and perform better have a greater economic advantage, they say.
FT 12th March 2019 read more »