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  • Writer's pictureBrad Morton

History of Bifacial Solar Panels in Indiana

In July of 2008, Hoosier Energy REC selected Morton Solar to install their very first test sites for wind and solar energy. The objective of the program was to test and gather production and financial viability data from solar photovoltaic and wind energy systems located in Hoosier Energy service territory. At that time, it was questionable whether wind and/or solar would even be viable in Indiana. Much public skepticism surrounded the use of solar PV systems with the public perception that they were too expensive and unreliable. However, there was also a movement that was starting to build for renewable energy and Hoosier Energy felt the need to research and gather data and knowledge about both sources of renewable energy.

At that time, Hoosier Energy did not have any solar installations. Their project involved installing a combination of solar & wind energy at various sites in Southern Indiana and be able to monitor and log the production data from both technologies. There were approximately 10 test sites selected which included the following:

1) Victory Primary Station – Jasper, IN

2) Franklin Training Center – Franklin, IN

3) Decatur County Primary Station – Greensburg, IN

4) Bartholomew County REMC (Office)

5) UDWI REMC (Office)

6) RushShelby Energy REMC (Office)

7) Southeast IN REMC (Office)

8) Turtle Creek Education Center – Merom Generating Station

9) Martin County REMC (Office)


The design concept for the solar energy systems at the substations involved mounting the solar panels on pole mounted structures. There was already an existing foundation of gravel. At three sites, Sanyo Bifacial 186W solar panel were utilized. At other sites, a combination of regular Sanyo and Sharp panels were utilized.

For approximately 5 years, Hoosier Energy captured and displayed the energy production data along with the cost of installations on their website so that the public, including their customers, could see the data and decide for themselves if solar or wind was ‘cost effective’. Additionally, Morton Solar was able to utilize this data to educate our customers and the public about what to expect from real world solar energy installations, at a time when there was much misinformation and propaganda surrounding grid-tied solar energy systems. In fact, a major of the public did not understand the concept of ‘grid-tied’ inverters and assumed that a battery bank was mandatory with solar energy systems. Also, at this time period, solar PV panels were MUCH more expensive than today.


First Bifacial solar energy panels installed in Indiana, August 2008

Jasper, Indiana



Standard Sanyo Solar PV Panels installed at Decatur County Substation

Greensburg, Indiana


Sanyo Bifacial Panels installed at RushShelby REMC

Manilla, Indiana


Results:

The Sanyo Bifacial panels consistently produced a higher KWh/KWp ratio of energy when compared to numerous other standard single faced solar panel products including Sharp, Sanyo, and even SunPower panels which were claimed to be the most efficient panels on the market. The production data was clearly evident on Hoosier’s website over a 3-4 year period which indicated that the bifacial panels routinely produced 1.3-1.35 KWh/KWp ratio while the standard Sanyo and Sharp panels produced 1.2-1.25 KWh/KWp range. And, the higher production ratio was realized even when the bifacial panels were installed above a grass ground surface.

From using this data and experience in design and installing these systems for Hoosier Energy, Morton went on to design and install a Sanyo Bifacial solar carport structure for the Chrisney Public Library in 2009. This library went on to be designated and certified as the first net-zero library in the United States. This title helped garner attention to the project by Gov. Daniel’s office in 2010 which was building attempting to build a coal-to-gas plant only five miles away in Rockport, Indiana. Later that year, Gov. Daniels expanded Indiana’s net-metering law by executive order to allow businesses and commercial entities to net-meter with systems up to 1MWac nameplate size rating. This executive order expanding net-metering law allowed the solar industry to grow and create over 3600 jobs in Indiana over the next 10 years.


Sanyo Bifacial solar panels installed at Chrisney Public Library.

(8.9KWdc nameplate rated)


Conclusion:

Bifacial panels are a proven solar panel design technology that is very simple by nature in that is simple utilizes a transparent backing plate in place of an opaque film allow more light to hit the silicon wafer cells and excite more electrons in the doped silicon wafer cells. The only question mark in these prior years was: is the slight increase in production efficiency worth the extra cost? At that time, the answer was not clear from an economic standpoint.

However, today mass production of bifacial solar panels in a competitive market have brought down the price of bifacial panels to be cost competitive to standard panels. Additionally, a recent solar panel import tariff exemption further increased the demand for bifacial panels and much more of the solar industry is now aware of the increase production efficiency. Going forward, I believe we will see further increased applications of bifacial panels, especially for large utility scale installations. But, even small ground mount systems on residential and agricultural applications can benefit from bifacial panels, especially if a white gravel sub-base can be placed under the array. And, commercial applications with a white reflective roof can benefit greatly while also being able to tax advantage of the new IRA Tax Credits for bifacial panels on commercial roofs.


140KW Sanyo Bifacial Solar parking canopy installed at Richardsville Elementary School, Bowling Green, KY. This school is documented at the 1st Net-Zero Energy School in the United States.

Here is a recent bifacial panel installation on Morley Architecture, Engineering, and Surveying in Evansville, Indiana.


Please contact us for more information and/or quote for your application.



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