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Bifacial Solar Panels Enter the Commercial Shopping Basket

One of the two largest managers of Australian retail property, Vicinity Centres, has invested $73 million in a solar program set to provide 31 MW of clean energy to 22 shopping centres and their retailers by end 2019. An early-stage trial of Trina bifacial panels will see Vicinity increase its solar yield mid-rollout.

Energy is the second-largest operating cost — after employees — of Vicinity Centres which has $26 billion in retail assets under management across 66 shopping centres in Australia. In December it energised its first bifacial panels on Kurralta Central Shopping Centre, to squeeze greater yields from its roof space, as part of a comprehensive plan to buffer the group against volatile energy prices. Preliminary results have spurred the company to expand its trial of bifacials across an entire carpark at Ellenbrook Central Shopping Centre in WA and integrated into other shopping-centre PV systems as appropriate.

Increased solar-panel output from the trial on Kurralta ranged from 6-8% to 16-18% depending on a variety of roof-surface coatings applied by Vicinity to maximise reflection onto the back of the panels.

At Kurralta, Vicinity set up four different arrays of Trina Duomax Twin PERC modules on tilt legs to maximise the advantage of reflected light hitting the back of the panel. Under each array the roof “treatment” is different, says Renae Sambrooks, General Manager of Energy and Commercial Management for Vicinity. “On one of them we just washed the roof; on another we applied normal white paint, and then we have two different solar-cool paints under the last two.” Every bifacial array has its neighbouring standard flat-mounted single-sided array, and “optimisers collect panel-level data” for output comparison.

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