A SCOTS academic has estimated that using double-sided solar panels could bring an extra £400 million of additional revenue into the Scottish economy every year and create more than 2000 jobs.

Now the scientist from Heriot-Watt University is working with industry partners Wood, building a model aiming to highlight the benefits of the switch to double-sided panels (bifacial solar cells) rather than the current single-sided version (monofacial).

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has said the installed capacity of solar panels in Scotland will rise to 1.5GW by 2030.

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

The 25% enhanced energy yield of bifacial panels could mean generation would increase to almost 2GW.

The National:

This would equate to £400m of additional annual revenue to the Scottish economy, over 2000 new jobs, along with £200m a year in energy savings for Scottish industry and households and a reduction in carbon emissions of more than half a billion kg/year.

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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, 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, she warned that several hurdles had to be overcome before the technology saw large-scale market distribution.

“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,” she said.

“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, added: “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.”