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Double-Sided Solar Panels Are Taking Off in China

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 6/19/2018 Christopher Martin
Suntech Power Holdings Co. photovoltaic solar panels stand at the Sri Chula solar farm, operated by Gunkul Engineering Pcl., in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Gunkul, the most expensive energy stock in Thailand, plans to invest more than 20 billion baht ($599 million) in Japanese solar projects to boost earnings growth.: Operations at the Gunkul Engineering Pcl Sri Chula Solar and the Subplu Wind Farms © Bloomberg Operations at the Gunkul Engineering Pcl Sri Chula Solar and the Subplu Wind Farms

(Bloomberg) -- Here’s one way to get more power from solar panels: use both sides of the cells. But don’t expect that to double the output.

China is expected to jump-start the market for panels that can absorb light on both sides with plans to install 2.7 gigawatts this year, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Other regions may add as much as 200 megawatts in 2018, and the global market may reach 15 gigawatts by 2020. A typical nuclear reactor has about 1 gigawatt of capacity.

Standard solar panels have a mostly aluminum backing. The so-called bi-facial panels remove most of the aluminum from the bottom, exposing the semiconducting material so it can produce electricity from light that hits it on either side.

This costs more to make, and until recently, the higher output hasn’t been enough to attract developers. Better manufacturing techniques are making them cheaper, and early installations show about a 10 percent boost in output as light bounces off the ground to hit the underside of the panels. Pro tip: It helps to paint the ground white.

(Corrects global forecast in second paragraph of story published May 17.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Will Wade, Margot Habiby

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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