Wood is working in partnership with Heriot-Watt University to build a model that aims to highlight the benefits of moving to double-sided solar panels (bifacial solar cells) rather than using the current single-sided panels (monofacial).

Bifacial cells can produce up to 25% more energy with the same projected area due to their ability to convert the irradiation being captured on both the front and rear sides. However, their current market share remains very low at around 5% globally.

Dr Mehreen Gul, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University, said: “Although the development of bifacial solar cells dates back to the 1970s, due to the expensive cell structure, bifacial modules have remained a niche product in the market.

“In contrast to single-sided cells, bifacial cells collect radiation on the front and rear side as they capture light reflected from the surface beneath the module and from the surroundings. On flat roofs, ground-mounted installations or locations that might not initially seem the best for a solar panel, however, bifaciality can improve energy generation by up to 25% more than standard panels.

“The advent of new and economically viable glass provides the ideal technology for generating higher energy yields. However, before this technology sees large-scale market distribution, several hurdles have to be overcome. Unlike single-sided panels, we need to examine the ‘albedo’ (light reflectivity) of the surface underneath the panel that can affect performance and then make accurate energy yield assessments by adapting and using state-of-the-art modelling tools. We will also perform a detailed investigation into high albedo surfaces in relation to radiation augmentation of bifacial modules, ageing, degradation, costs and environmental impact.”

Alan Mortimer, director of innovation at Wood, said: “Heriot-Watt University is recognised as the best in its field and we are thrilled to, once again, be working together to create a low-carbon future. Bifacial panels with their lower cost of energy will help accelerate the global energy transition by allowing many more companies and consumers to make the switch.

“Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing renewable technologies and through this partnership, we will not only drive continuous improvements for our customers but also boost the quality of research within the university by ensuring it has practical applications in industry.”

It is hoped the research will be used internationally to build a case for bifacial panels across the globe. An Energy Technology Partnership Award with contributions from Wood and Heriot-Watt University is funding the research. Input is also being provided by Edinburgh Napier University.