Artificial reflectors boost solar panel efficacy by up to 4.5%

A smart approach to optimize the effectiveness of solar energy.


Follow us onFollow Tech Explorist on Google News

The University of Ottawa researchers have developed an innovative method to enhance the effectiveness of solar energy. By introducing artificial ground reflectors into solar setups, they have succeeded in improving the system’s energy production and efficiency.

This breakthrough discovery has significant implications for the economic viability of solar energy projects. It provides valuable insights into the costs and benefits of integrating artificial reflectors in solar energy ventures.

The University of Ottawa’s SUNLAB, led by electrical engineering Professor Karin Hinzer, collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in a groundbreaking study on reflective ground covers’ impact on solar energy output. The study found that placing reflective surfaces under solar panels can increase their energy output by up to 4.5%.

“Critically, these reflectors should be placed directly under the solar panels, not between rows, to maximize this benefit,” explains Mandy Lewis, the paper’s lead author.

Bifacial solar panels capture sunlight from both sides and now there’s a new breakthrough to enhance their power generation. While the origins of solar technology date back to 1939, it was not until 1954 that Bell Labs developed the first solar cell for commercial use.

The installation of solar panels gained traction in the early 2000s as concerns over energy efficiency and climate change grew. The 1970s saw the emergence of bifacial solar cells capable of harnessing sunlight from both sides, resulting in increased power generation.

Mandy Lewis’ ongoing research at the University of Ottawa holds immense promise for various regions, especially in Canada, where snow cover persists for three to four months of the year in major cities like Ottawa and Toronto and 65% of the country’s vast landmass experiences snow cover for over half the year. The utilization of bifacial solar systems coupled with high-ground reflectivity offers tremendous potential in these regions.

Moreover, the global implications of this breakthrough are evident, as approximately 4% of the world’s land areas are sandy deserts, which could benefit from these findings.

According to Lewis, “This research is crucial for maximizing solar energy production in geographically diverse locations. Furthermore, by generating more power per unit of land area, reflectors are ideal for densely populated areas, like city centers, where space limitations exist for solar installations.”

As scientists around the world continue to direct their focus toward combating climate change and enhancing energy efficiency, the partnership between the University of Ottawa and the NREL holds great promise. Their collaboration could pave the way for widespread adoption of solar panels globally. Advancements in solar technology are crucial for a seamless transition to zero-emission power sources, offering a sustainable solution to our energy needs.

Journal reference:

  1. Mandy R. Lewis, Silvana Ovaitt, Byron McDanold, Chris Deline, Karin Hinzer. Artificial ground reflector size and position effects on energy yield and economics of single-axis-tracked bifacial photovoltaics. Progress in Photovoltaics, 2024; DOI: 10.1002/pip.3811


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.