Seeking a 10% solar bifacial boost plus a 20% tracker boost over fixed monofacial panels, Maui developer Neighborhood Power is installing 10 megawatts of a new type of Canadian Solar panels in Portland, on rooftops, carports and ground sites. The micro-utility, as the company calls itself, will build, own and operate these arrays by year’s end, and has another similar 10 megawatts (MW) planned for 2019 including sites in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the United States, says Stephen Gates, the president of the company.
The shipment of bifacial panels to Portland may be the first US commercial load of Canadian Solar’s new bifacial panel, the BiKuCS3U-PB-AG or BiKu modules. “Depending on the albedo (reflectivity) of the ground and other site conditions, daily energy yield for projects with bifacial modules can be 5%-20% higher than with conventional polymer backsheet modules. This improved yield can dramatically enhance the economics of solar system deployments,” says the manufacturer in its spec sheet.
Neighborhood Power (NPC) is experimenting with the yield boost of the panels on a variety of fixed and tracking mounting structures and different ground covers types, including grass, white plastic mulch, and natural cover, says Gates. Some albedos — like snow — can raise the amount of reflected light by as much as 70%, studies show. The trackers will include both Soltec and Arctech designs, he says.
This new poly bifacial solar module generates 400 watts or more on the front, plus up to 30% additional power generation from the back side albedo, increasing system yield over monofacial panels and reducing the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE). The company believes that BiKu is the first poly bifacial module exceeding 400+ watt nominal front side power, a statement said. The BiKu modules will be commercially available in 2019 and pre-production orders are being accepted now, Canadian Solar said.
The design of the panel helped the developer avoid cost and meet deadlines. ”When the solar industry was hit with tariffs on solar modules and steel, it seemed that rising landed costs had priced these projects out of the market,” said Gates, in a statement with Canadian Solar. “But with the additional power generated by Canadian Solar’s bifacial modules, delivered in the quantities and in the timeframe we needed, we were able to make the project economics work and bring these projects online by the end of 2018 as planned,” he said.
With the new US tariffs on both steel and solar panels, Neighborhood Power was scrambling to take delivery on both the trackers and the panels, which in this case are not optimized for one another by design. “We have worked to optimize the equipment, but only field-testing will tell. We do plan to release all the data from all the sites to the public to help foster a US standard performance expectation,” Gates says.
One additional advantage to the Canadian Solar bifacial panels is a longer standard than the 25-year industry average. “Canadian Solar BiKu bifacial modules are warranted for 30 years, five years longer than the industry standard, and have a lower degradation rate, which results in 20% additional yield over the lifetime of the solar module,” the company said in the statement. “When added to the additional daily bifacial yield of 5-20%, Canadian Solar BiKu bifacial modules deliver up to 44% additional lifetime value compared to conventional modules,” the statement claims.
“Canadian Solar foresaw early on that bifacial technology had the potential to be a game changer in the economics of large-scale solar and set out to be a leader in the development and deployment of bifacial solar modules. Our early deployment with Neighborhood Power in the US is one proof point of our successful execution on that strategy,” said Shawn Qu, CEO of Canadian Solar.
Neighborhood Power designs a solar roof that replaces traditional commercial and industrial rooftops, notes Gates. The company also is experimenting with a new third party single-axis tracker design for carports, which is a new area of business for the solar industry.
NPC is a turn-key developer of solar micro-utilities that sells solar power by the kilowatt-hour to residential, commercial, municipal, non-profit and utility markets.
Canadian Solar has successfully delivered over 29 GW of modules In the past 17 years to over 100 countries around the world. The company been publicly listed on NASDAQ since 2006, the company profile states.