Scientists Invent New Double-Sided Solar Panel that Generates 20% More Electricity

A team of scientists have invented a new double-sided solar panel that is capable of increasing efficiency by 20%. The design allows solar energy to be captured from both sides, with the back panel achieving an efficiency of 91-93% of the front side.

Developed at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the bifacial solar cells harvest sunlight that is reflected onto the back of the cells. This taps into a previously unutilised source of energy that produces higher yield for less space and long-term cost.

Kai Zhu, a scientist at NREL, commented on the new design, “This perovskite cell can operate very effectively from either side.” Current technologies that employ silicon as the semiconductor have an efficiency rate of approximately 26%. With the new back side panel installed, the efficiency shoots up to 46%, nearly doubling.

Perovskite, mineral form

Perovskite, the material leading the way in solar panel innovation, has been in the spotlight in recent years breaking energy storage efficiency records. These new designs are providing brand new pathways in the industry for innovation and a new generation of technologies.

For example, the recently unveiled perovskite-based solar cells are capable of regeneration if damaged by radiation, specifically when in low-orbit. This was discovered by a team based at the University of Sydney, Australia, when conducting tests on the interaction between radiation and perovskite. They discovered that degradation to the cells caused by radiation could be reversed completely when treating the perovskite cells in a heated vacuum.

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This new discovery could also vastly improve the quality of space satellites, as well as opening doors for the potential of in-orbit solar panels. Since they were first utilised in the 1950’s, satellites have seen an average rate of degradation of 10% per year due to radiation damage. The use of perovskite could circumvent this completely, potentially saving millions of dollars in maintenance costs.

When looking at terrestrial solar panels, combining both perovskite and silicone creates an average efficiency of around 30%. However, in theory this limit can go much higher compared to just silicone-based cells.

These new developments have now led to an increase in research and development within the field of bifacial solar panels. Despite the higher cost of development, the increase in power generation will more than pay for the cost over the long term.