Canadian Solar announced a 1.8-gigawatt module order from EDF Renewables North America on Wednesday, the largest in its history, in a deal analysts say points to the utility solar market’s looming pivot toward bifacial technology.
Canadian Solar says it will supply a mixture of its bifacial and traditional modules to multiple EDF projects across the U.S., Canada and Mexico through 2023, as the U.S. federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) phases down.
Bifacial modules, which generate more electricity than traditional modules by absorbing sunlight on their backside, represent a sliver of the overall solar market today. But many in the industry expect them to catch on quickly over the next few years, helping to lower the levelized cost of solar power as developers and investors grow more comfortable with the technology.
“The agreement demonstrates our confidence in the bifacial module technology to support our robust pipeline of contracted projects over the next five years,” Tristan Grimbert, president and chief executive of EDF Renewables North America, said in a statement.
There were just 3.1 gigawatts of bifacial modules installed globally at the end of 2018, or less than 1 percent of the worldwide total, according to Ben Gallagher, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
Even as momentum builds for the technology, bifacial modules are expected to account for just under 5 percent of global solar installations this year, Gallagher said. “But this announcement from EDF is a clear indication that in the near term, bifacial will make up a much more substantial portion of PV installations, especially here in the U.S.”
Demand for bifacial modules is expected to grow as more projects are completed using the technology, establishing a track record investors can point to. Among other projects underway, Invenergy is building a 160-megawatt solar array in Georgia using bifacial modules supplied by China’s Longi, due for completion later this year.