Bifacial modules ridin’ down the highway

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Netherlands water management agency the Rijkswaterstaat – part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment – has announced completion of the first of its Solar Highways PV systems.

The 400 m long PV array was deployed on the noise barrier of the A50 near Uden, in the Netherlands’ southern province of Noord-Brabant.

“A noise barrier in which two-sided solar panels – the so-called bifacial solar modules – are integrated on this scale has not been developed and applied before,” said the Rijkswaterstaat. “It is a pilot project made possible by LIFE + funding from the European Union.”

The European Commission financed the €1.4 million project – run by the Rijkswaterstaat and partners the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and the Solar Energy Application Community (SEAC) – as it wants to accelerate the use of PV on noise barriers along Europe’s main roads.

Test run

The noise barrier has a north-south orientation which enables better light absorption from both sides as the morning and afternoon sun is optimally used, added the Rijkswaterstaat.

“The road is open to go from a 400 m long noise barrier with bifacial solar panels to hundreds of kilometers,” said Ton de Jong, director of the ECN. “Not to mention the many other applications that the bifacial solar panels offer us.”

SEAC will measure the energy output of the PV system during an 18-month test phase. “For this purpose, several test sections are set up with, for example, different cleaning regimes,” the Rijkswaterstaat said. “The results are used to make a good estimate in the future, of the maintenance need, energy performance and financial yield of future solar noise barriers.”

The advantages of using bifacial modules in solar power generators with a vertical tilt angle have been highlighted by several experts in the PV industry in recent years.