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Reflective ground coverings increase solar energy production – pv magazine USA

Scientists in Canada are testing the use of reflective surfaces to increase electricity production in bifacial solar panels.

A team of scientists from the University of Ottawa is testing the use of artificial reflectors to increase solar energy production. The study was published in Progress in photovoltaics.

In Canada and other northern climates, bifacial solar panels are commonly used, which can collect light and convert it to electricity on both sides of the panel. In these cold climates, snow often lies on the ground, creating a highly reflective surface that increases double-sided production.

The University of Ottawa’s Sunlab laboratory, together with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), collaborated on a project that tested the effectiveness of creating artificial surfaces imitating the benefits of snow’s high reflectivity.

“High albedo locations show an increase in efficiency, and during snowy months, there was an increase in bilateral efficiency of over 19%,” the report says. “The bifacial solar industry has shown interest in extending this energy gain to snow-free areas year-round using artificial reflectors.”

The team found that placing white reflective surfaces directly beneath solar panels could increase total energy production by up to 4.5%.

The study calculated the maximum cost-effective cost for these improvements to be between $2.50 and $4.60 per square foot, including both materials and installation, at a test facility in Golden, Colorado.

“Higher break-even material costs are possible in systems with higher initial levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). For example, we found a break-even installation cost of $3.40-$6.00 per square foot in Seattle, Washington at 60% reflective material.”

The impact of artificial reflectors depended largely on location, with locations with higher LCOE and lower energy yield benefiting more from the addition of reflectors than locations with low LCOE and high energy yield.

“We found that highly reflective white surfaces can increase solar energy output,” said Mandy Lewis, lead author of the study. “Most importantly, to maximize benefits, these reflectors should be placed directly under the solar panels, not between the rows.”

Lewis said the research will help increase solar energy production in geographically diverse regions. Generating more power per unit of land area makes the floodlights potentially fit into densely populated areas where there are space constraints for solar installations, Lewis said.

The report concluded that 70% reflective material could increase total incident irradiance by 1.9% to 8.6% and total energy yield by 0.9% to 4.5% per year after accounting for DC-AC trimming amounting to 1.2.

“Trimming has a significant impact on reflector impact and should be taken into account when assessing reflector life because it reduces the energy gain of the reflector,” the report said.

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