Researchers use reflectors underneath solar panels to boost solar power by 4.5% – Interesting Engineering

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The University of Ottawa in collaboration with National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed an add-on to solar panels that increases their energy output by 4.5%.

Researchers use reflectors underneath solar panels to boost solar power by 4.5%

Artificial reflector experiment at NREL in Golden, Colorado


Researchers from the University of Ottawa just proved that a genius move could achieved with a simple solution—put a reflective surface underneath the solar panel, so it bounces more light into it.

The researchers, in a bid to enhance solar energy harnessing technology, placed “artificial ground reflectors” or highly reflective white surfaces beneath the panels, which increased their energy output by 4.5%.

“Critically, these reflectors should be placed directly under the solar panels, not between rows, to maximize this benefit,” Mandy Lewis, the lead author, says. As bifacial solar panels absorb sunlight from both sides, they just figured out how to help it generate even more power.

Though the beginnings of solar technology could be pinpointed back to 1939, it wasn’t until 1954 that Bell Labs created the first solar cell for commercial use.

In the early 2000s, however, the installation of solar panels gained momentum with increasing concerns over energy efficiency and climate change. In the 70s, bifacial solar cells, meaning they absorb sunlight from both sides, first appeared. They generate more power.

This study published by the University of Ottawa on these artificial ground reflectors is only the beginning of a new international research collaboration between National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Ottawa.

A small adjustment to solar panels could go a long way

The researcher that Mandy Lewis currently carries out at the University of Ottawa has far-reaching benefits, potentially. Canada, especially, experiences an impressive amount of snow a year. 65% of the country is snow-fallen for over half a year.

Bifacial solar systems, implemented through the affected regions, already generate 20% more energy than conventional solar panels. However, this added feature — a little boost from below — could greatly increase the energy delivered to these areas and beyond.

As “4% of the world’s land areas are classified as sandy deserts,” this tiny adjustment could “maximize solar energy production in geographically diverse locations,” Lewis explains. In overcast areas such as Seattle, even.  

Increasing their energy output also reduces the number of panels needed, making solar energy more accessible in cities with dense populations and not a lot of extra space. Less is more, we’ve heard the expression before.


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Maria Mocerino Originally from LA, Maria Mocerino has been published in Business Insider, The Irish Examiner, The Rogue Mag, Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, and now Interesting Engineering.



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