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[2019 SNEC Preview] The Economic Impact of Bifacial Modules Calculated with the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE)

published: 2019-06-03 17:00

As technological advances continue to be made in the solar industry, PERC process has received widespread use and produced excellent results in 2018, raising the conversion efficiency of batteries while promoting diversification of micro technology on the component end. This gives rise to the combinatory usage of half-cut, paving, shingled, MBB, double glass and bifacial modules and other various technologies, causing the power output of the final product to go up by a level or two compared to the previous year. However, the core competitive edge of a component product lies in its levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). In order to lower this value, one must increase battery efficiency, module power and power generation, lower production costs, and ensure long-term reliability.

What is the Levelized Cost of Electricity?

The levelized cost of electricity is the cost of power output calculated after levelizing of PV power plant costs and power output cycling. Simply put, it is the average cost of energy production for every KWh power plants produce. It is an economic assessment made on the cost competitiveness of power generation systems. It includes all the costs incurred in a system’s lifetime: Initial investments, operations and maintenance costs, fuel costs and capital costs.

The levelized cost of electricity is calculated by dividing the total operation cost of a program by the amount of energy it produces. The total operation cost should include the costs of every item, including both those of construction and operation, and may even include all the other salvage values or remaining value at the end of a program’s lifecycle.

There are quite a few factors that lower the cost of electricity. To begin with, the half-cut cells seen on the market and the purposeful narrowing of the distance between bus-bars are both used to lower power dissipation in resistors, enlarge the gap between cells and increase current flow. This increases component power and effectively reduces system cost-per-Watt. Furthermore, a lower component temperature coefficient may bring about smaller soiling losses and other characteristics. These can all mitigate the risk of hotspots and give rise to greater power generation and reliability.

PERC Cell Capacity Share Increases, Accelerating the Drop of Overall Production Costs

The global PV industry sees PERC cell capacity achieving at 78.3GW in 2018, surpassing the capacity of normal cells in the first time, and is expected to cross the 100GW threshold in 2019 and arrive at 108GW. According to EnergyTrend’s calculations, PERC production has surpassed 50GW in 2018 as the number of installations reach the projected goal. Actual production share of PERC cells over total production, in comparison to the 34.4% in 2017, has arrived at 65.8% in 2018, and is predicted to see new heights in 2019 with a chance to rise above 70%. We may very well expect PERC cell production to become a standard process in the future. This increase of overall PERC production capacity will no doubt help usher in an age of lowered costs.

Figure 1: Prediction of Global Cell Capacity w/o PERC, 2017-2021

Figure 2: Prediction of Global PERC Cell Capacity & Production, 2017-2021

Figure 3: Prediction of global monofacial and bifacial ratio, 2018-2023

According to EnergyTrend’s research, global capacity of bifacial modules was planned to reach 17.4GW, yet actual production should barely reach a fourth of this amount; this is mainly due to the starting point lying at the fourth quarter, causing actual production to lie under 4GW. Bifacial modules, equipped with the ability to provide energy yields from both the front and the rear sides, fare far better in LCOE calculations. Thus we can expect bifacial modules to grow by more than 10% yearly. They may even have a chance to stand side by side with traditional standard products.

In calculating the contributions to LCOE, we have also simulated additions of the internal rates of return (IRR) by bifacial component energy yield, compiled in Table 1 as below:

Based on 100KW project within 300W Bifacial Module


Energy Yield from the Back







Unit Per Power Output








Internal Rate of Return (IRR)








Projected Additional IRR








Table 1: Power Output of Bifacial Components (W) vs. Simulated IRR Values

We provided energy yields from the back according to theoretical and experimental values. For increases ranging from 5% to 30%, possible contributions are displayed irrespective of P type or N type products. The baseline for IRR was calculated under the premise that financial and environmental terms stay consistent. The only variable in the table is component power output. From this table, we can see that IRR increases linearly as module energy yield from the back gets larger. This confirms that bifacial components can indeed bring about better gains in LCOE.

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