A Sensitivity Study of the Impact of Installation Parameters and System Configuration on the Performance of Bifacial PV Arrays

William Marion, Christopher Deline, Amir Asgharzadeh, Clifford Hansen, Joshua Stein, Fatima Toor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus Citations


In this paper, we present the effect of installation parameters (tilt angle, height above ground, and albedo) on the bifacial gain and energy yield of three south-facing photovoltaic (PV) system configurations: a single module, a row of five modules, and five rows of five modules utilizing RADIANCE-based ray tracing model. We show that height and albedo have a direct impact on the performance of bifacial systems. However, the impact of the tilt angle is more complicated. Seasonal optimum tilt angles are dependent on parameters such as height, albedo, size of the system, weather conditions, and time of the year. For a single bifacial module installed in Albuquerque, NM, USA (35 °N) with a reasonable clearance (∼1 m) from the ground, the seasonal optimum tilt angle is lowest (∼5°) for the summer solstice and highest (∼65°) for the winter solstice. For larger systems, seasonal optimum tilt angles are usually higher and can be up to 20° greater than that for a single module system. Annual simulations also indicate that for larger fixed-tilt systems installed on a highly reflective ground (such as snow or a white roofing material with an albedo of ∼81%), the optimum tilt angle is higher than the optimum angle of the smaller size systems. We also show that modules in larger scale systems generate lower energy due to horizon blocking and large shadowing area cast by the modules on the ground. For albedo of 21%, the center module in a large array generates up to 7% less energy than a single bifacial module. To validate our model, we utilize measured data from Sandia National Laboratories' fixed-tilt bifacial PV testbed and compare it with our simulations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)798-805
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-71518


  • Bifacial PV
  • Optimization
  • Photovoltaic systems
  • Ray tracing
  • Solar power generation


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