Economic feasibility of campus-wide photovoltaic systems in New England

Highlights

Feasibility of the campus-wide PV system in UNH was evaluated based on the performance data from Celentano Hall.

Theoretical estimation of solar energy production was calculated to compare with the actual PV performance data.

Results could promote interests and investments in renewable energy research and sustainability projects.

A 67 kW PV system in New England is expected to generate a cumulative cash flow of $ 360,000 over its 25 years lifetime.

Abstract

Compared to the national average residential retail electricity price, Connecticut (CT) had the 4th highest electricity price in the country with 19.23 cents/kWh in September 2015, nearly 50% higher than the national average for price of electricity. This study aims to assess the economic feasibility of the solar PV systems at the campus under realistic constraints, by analyzing actual data from the solar array on campus. The project focused on the economic feasibility of solar PV systems on campus with physical, spatial, and practical constraints that result in a project to deviate from theoretical (estimated) values. To achieve that, the prediction of the PV power generation from the building was developed and compared with the actual (measured) data.

The average payback period of a campus-wide PV system was calculated as primarily 11 years, within a range of 8–12 years, and was estimated to reduce overall building operating expenses by $250,000, or 8%. The economic parameters such as NPV and IRR also validated the investment worthiness. The results of the study could be used to analyze or further develop feasibility studies of PV systems at other universities in Connecticut and neighboring states that share similar climatic characteristics and economic factors.

Keywords

  • Renewable energy;
  • Solar photovoltaic;
  • Economic feasibility study;
  • Environmental impact;
  • Campus-wide PV;
  • New England

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