In the past half decade, bifacial module capacity has globally grown from 97 MW in 2016 to almost 6 GW in 2019. The anticipated growth of bifacial modules shall account for 17% of the solar market by 2024 according to Wood Mackenzie Consultancy. With costs of bifacial modules falling steeply during the past two decades, the cost gap between mono and bifacial modules is narrowing. As a result, the increased market share of bifacials could positively impact the future of the solar market. To highlight the reasons behind that, MESIA had the pleasure to interview Antonio Jimenez, Managing Director and Vice President of Trina Solar Middle East & Africa.
1- What can you tell us about the increased market share of the bifacial photovoltaic technologies?
In the last two years, developers and contractors have realized the benefits of using bifacial modules in their projects to obtain better electricity prices. In the MENA region, clear and flat terrains provide high albedo (ie. reflectivity of the ground) optimizing energy production. With bifacial cells being light sensitive on both front and rear sides, power plants ultimately perform better. Due to the high competition in the tenders, this is an opportunity that no bidder can miss.
The experience gained in the last 4-5 years has taken this technology to a point of maturity. Today, it is easy to find bifacial modules in both large and small projects. Lenders are now comfortable to finance plants with this technology and technical advisors are also able to forecast performance accurately.
Trina Solar brought bifacial modules to the market as soon as in 2016 and soon started having orders. The largest plant installed using Trina Solar modules exceed 400MW, which shows the bankability of these products.
2- Why is this technology so attractive?
Bifacial modules absorb energy on both sides of the module, with the backside power in the range of 65%-85% of the front side power. The maximum power of the module could even exceed the nominal power (since bifacial modules are sold based on the power of the front side only).
This means the following:
- The relation between module power and inverter power will be lower
- The amount of power per module (and per m2) will be higher
- The power when the sun is low will be higher
All this will reduce LCOE cost since the additional cost of bifacial modules is small.
Bifacial modules work best with trackers. It is possible to add 30% more energy to a plant with single axis trackers if bifacial modules are used.
3- What do you see as the biggest trend for bifacial modules in the coming years?
Bifacial modules with single axis trackers are the cheapest option to provide the lowest LCOE for ground mounted power plants. The market has recognized this fact and used this solution to bid for the most competitive tenders. Currently, almost 10GW of ongoing projects and tenders in the region use bifacial modules with single axis trackers.
Large flat areas of clear sand are ideal to implement this technology. Furthermore, the profile of production during the day is more stable than a fix installation when trackers are coupled with bifacial modules. This makes this solution better suited to cover the energy needs while minimizing the size of storage needed.
Antonio Jimenez- Managing Director and Vice President of Trina Solar Middle East & Africa.
Antonio Jimenez has an extensive career in the solar industry and has been involved in the power sector since 2000. He joined Trina Solar in 2019 to set up the regional headquarters in the Middle East and Africa Region. Prior to this, he worked in several multinationals as PWC, Innogy SE and Abengoa Solar where he spent a large amount of his career working in all the steps of the value chain of solar power. His has extensive experience in solar power, IPP projects and renewable energy value chain Europe, North America and Middle East and Africa Region, with more than 8 years in the latter.
Antonio holds an engineering degree and a MBA degree from INSEAD graduate business school.
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