Double-sided solar panels are ideally suited to Scotland due to the nation’s lack of sunlight and should be rolled out more widely, according to research by a leading university.
The devices could save households and businesses north of the Border £200 million a year if used instead of conventional one-sided panels, Heriot-Watt University said.
The “bifacial” solar cells used in double-sided panels can capture radiation from sunlight on both of their sides, meaning they can produce up to 25 per cent more energy using the same area.
Rather than relying purely on direct sunlight like existing panels, they can also capture light reflected from the surface underneath and from nearby surroundings.
Double-sided solar panels currently make up only around 5 per cent of the market, but scientists believe this should be dramatically increased to help cut carbon emissions.
According to the Solar Trade Association, the installed energy capacity of Scottish solar panels is set to rise to 1.5GW by 2030, but Heriot-Watt said this could be boosted to 2GW if double-sided ones were used instead.
Researchers said this could also contribute £400m to the Scottish economy, create more than 2,000 new jobs and cut CO2 emissions by more than 500 million kg per year.
Dr Mehreen Gul, an assistant professor in architectural engineering at the university’s school of energy, said the cloudy Scottish weather meant the panels could prove particularly useful.
“Overcast skies are predominant in northerly locations such as Scotland, making it a good place to use double-sided solar panels,” she said.
“Although the development of bifacial solar cells dates back to the 1970s, due to the expensive cell structure, bifacial modules have remained a niche product in the market.
“On flat roofs, ground-mounted installations or locations that might not initially seem best for a solar panel, bifaciality can improve energy generation by up to 25 per cent. The advent of new and economically viable glass also provides the ideal technology for generating higher energy yields.”
Dr Gul is currently building a model to demonstrate the capabilities of double-sided solar panels, which will also seek to overcome various hurdles that have prevented them becoming common.
The model will also be used to study the reflectivity of various surfaces that might be used under the panels and affect their performance, as well as calculating their energy yields, environmental costs and other impacts.
The academic is developing the model in partnership with energy firm Wood Group.
Alan Mortimer, the firm’s director of innovation in clean energy, said: “Bifacial panels will help accelerate the global energy transition by allowing many more companies and consumers to make the switch.”