Bifacial solar panel

Optimizing bifacial solar PV technology for high latitudes

As the solar industry continues to grow and mature in Alaska, more solar installations are utilizing bifacial solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that can absorb solar energy from the front and rear side of the modules. This research is characterizing how well bifacial solar PV panels perform at high latitudes.

Bifacial research is ongoing at the ACEP solar test site on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus (~65° North). This test site, jointly developed by UAF and Sandia National Laboratories, enables the characterization of performance enhancements of bifacial solar PV panels at high latitudes.

A person working on a solar panel in Kotzebue, Alaska

Collected data from the test site have provided the first systematic comparison between south-facing monofacial and bifacial PV modules in Alaska. In the first year of data collection, annual bifacial gains of 21% were observed between side-by-side south-facing monofacial and bifacial modules.

The data also provided comparison between south-facing and vertical east-west facing bifacial PV modules. Vertical east-west bifacial modules had nearly the same annual production as south-facing latitude tilt bifacial modules, but with different energy production profiles. This ongoing project will continue to investigate additional types of modules and system designs in the future, as the challenges posed by extreme sun angles in Alaska’s northern regions also present opportunities for unique system designs.

In addition, bifacial PV performance is being studied at the Kotzebue Electric Association solar PV array in Kotzebue, Alaska (~67° North). This 576-kW array is currently the largest bifacial array in the state. Data collected at this site indicates that the bifacial modules generate 15% more energy than equivalent monofacial modules.

This ongoing project began in 2018. Funding for the project comes from the Office of Naval Research and Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Solar panels in Kotzebue, Alaska