Double-sided solar panels can track the sun and produce more energy

Scientists are inventing new ways to produce and collect as much energy as they can from natural sources. Recently researchers have introduced double-sided solar panels. These solar panels can produce a large amount of energy by automatically tracking the sun.

Double-sided solar panels tilt based on the sun’s position. They could boost the amount of energy collected. The two approaches existed independently before, but researchers have now looked at the effects of combining them.

Increased energy production using double sided solar panels

Carlos Rodríguez-Gallegos at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore and his colleagues found that double-sided solar panels that track the sun would produce 35 per cent more energy. Moreover, these panels can reduce the average cost of electricity by 16 per cent.

“The goal for any solar panel is to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible”

Rodríguez-Gallegos

At present, solar panels around the world are predominantly installed with a fixed orientation. And they absorb light only from one side.

The advantage of using two-sided solar panels is that they can also absorb energy that is reflected by the ground onto their rear side.

Two types of sun-tracking solar panels exist nowadays. Single-axis trackers and dual-axis trackers. Single-axis trackers follow the sun over the course of a day, moving from east to west. Dual-axis trackers also follow the sun over the course of a year, changing position according to the seasons. Because the sun’s elevation is higher in summer and lowers in winter.

In their analysis, the team calculated the global energy generated by a variety of combinations of different solar panel set-ups.

They analysed global weather data from NASA’s orbiting Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument. They then estimated the total energy generated in different set-ups. The team found that double-sided panels would produce 35% more energy when combined with single-axis trackers, and 40% more in combination with dual-axis trackers.

The group also factored in the costs involved in the materials, construction and maintenance of these solar panels, which differs between countries.

Combining double-sided panels with single-axis trackers would reduce the levelised cost.

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