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Old 01-04-2015, 14:03   #1
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Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

I'm relatively new to sailing. I've seen boats with multiple solar panels attached to various contraptions. Looking at websites selling solar to marine market, I noticed that they provide low wattage, which explains the contraptions. I'm a co-founder of a Silicon Valley solar company. We make our own panels that are sold for kW-MW installations. Our run of the mill panel is rated 360W and we have panels up to 500W per panel. The rating is for light coming only from the front. However our panels are bi-facial, meaning we also generate power from light reflected to the back of the panel, for an average of 15% boost. The attached picture is of a 2.6MW installation in Vermont, totally covered with snow. Normal panel would have generated zero power. This installation showed 900KWhr due to back reflection. We are not set up for individual sales, but I wonder whether there would be an interest in such a product. Seems ideal to me since it would reduce the number of panels you would need and provide lots of boost from light reflected from water and hull. I would greatly appreciate comments.

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Old 01-04-2015, 14:12   #2
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

... so how does the 'backstructure' of the module looks like? Can not vision how you get light through the backsheet to collect light from the back.

Can you post a link on how your modules look like (so glas-EVA-cell-...)

Thanks!

Carsten
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Old 01-04-2015, 14:24   #3
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

At best, any light reflection will come off the water. But since a fair number of boats have their panels mounted directly on top of biminis or cabin top structures, there won't be much in it, so probably not if I had to guess
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Old 01-04-2015, 14:25   #4
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

No back sheet. Glass-glass panels.

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Old 01-04-2015, 14:27   #5
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

I'd imagine those with a "solar arch" setup might benefit from these?
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Old 01-04-2015, 20:58   #6
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

In almost all cases the limiting factor for marine installations isn't cost it's space. Trying to find enough room to place the panels is almost always the biggest issue. Anything that can increase the wattage/sqft is going to be valuable.

The real question is how much additional wattage can your system provide? A bimmini top installation may provide one set of numbers, a stern arch a very different number. Wiout some way to quantify this and how your panels compare in price to traditional panels I couldn't gess the interest.

If they increase power production by 20% for 20% more then it would be a pretty easy sell. If they cost double for 10% there may be some takers but a lot fewer. It is really hard to guess without putting some numbers to it.

What I would suggest is to do some experamentation. Pay for the installation of a few solar arrays. With your panels side by side with traditional panels of the same nominal one side wattage. This way you can get some baselines of how much more your panels will actually produce in different orientations as compared to a traditional panel.
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Old 01-04-2015, 22:23   #7
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Ideal if you could hang some off your stern. There you'd get reflection, you'd potentially get much more than a ground install. We have open water to the west of our slip, if there's no wind in the afternoon the sun will reflect off the water making a death ray. When we put our hard top on, you can see the reflection dancing on the roof.

A lifeline/rail mounted panel would be ideal to catch reflections, but they would need to be narrow and your panels are probably too wide (from a windage and structural support perspective)

A lot depends on the cost. I'll interested you can put some on our davits on the stern and I'll report back how they work.
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Old 01-04-2015, 22:29   #8
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Thanks Stumble. I neglected to mention, but we sell our panels at same price/watt as other competitors' lower wattage panels. So, as you said, you get more power from less real estate. We had many tests done by third parties comparing our panels to "top of the line" panels. In all cases our panels produced more power. In addition to bi-facial we produce more power because out thermal coefficient is lower and we are less susceptible to light degradation and to diffused lighting conditions. We have a lot of installations in Puerto Rico because we have the only panel certified to 180 mph wind. Anyway, I'm going to build a small panel and try it on my current 26' boat. For fun I attach a picture of our 500W panel, which gives 575W with bi-facial boost.

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Old 01-04-2015, 22:32   #9
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

That would work... how much is that?
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Old 01-04-2015, 22:41   #10
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

The issues for sailboats with solar panels is space, shading, weight.

Sounds like these would be even heavier with two layers of glass.
How would shading effect them? Now you have shadows from behind too?

What might be interesting is to orient them differently with reflectors,
and that might get more wattage in a smaller space for less cost?
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Old 01-04-2015, 22:49   #11
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Didn't Sharp (I think it was them) make such a panel a number of years ago - like 5-10 years ago? I don't know what happened to it.
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Old 02-04-2015, 00:42   #12
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Tanglewood, it was Sanyo. They were acquired by Panasonic. They still make them, but they are lower wattage and they sell almost exclusively in Japan because of their high cost.

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Old 02-04-2015, 00:51   #13
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Nimblemotor, you are right on weight. We have one line called SL which uses treated 2mm glass, so it helps. On shading, you can think about it this way: a shaded cell is like someone turning off the faucet resisting current flow through it. However, with bi-facial if that cell is illuminated from the back it's like someone opening back the faucet, at least some so current resistance is lower. Note that bi-facial means the cell itself is bi-facial. It's not two cells back to back.

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Old 02-04-2015, 00:57   #14
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Autombreeze27, we currently are not set up for individual sale we ship container - loads. Price depends on size of installation, but currently the mafket runs anywhere from about 70c for low wattage Chinese panels to about $1/W for premium panels.

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Old 02-04-2015, 03:21   #15
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Re: Is there interest in bi-facial high wattage panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbpatents View Post
Autombreeze27, we currently are not set up for individual sale we ship container - loads. Price depends on size of installation, but currently the mafket runs anywhere from about 70c for low wattage Chinese panels to about $1/W for premium panels.

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Do you also make flex/non-rigid bi-facial panels? I would think that those may be very useful installed along the lifelines.
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