Utilities can evaluate opportunities for solar-powered electrical generation by examining the region to estimate the total megawatt hours an installation would generate in the course of its life. This data informs other steps for cost-of-energy analyses.
Q : How can utilities evaluate opportunities for solar-powered electrical generation?
Sunlight is free — but conversion of solar energy into electrical power at the utility scale requires considerable capital investment. Front-end planning and feasibility studies help potential owners and investors make informed decisions.
Planning starts with a solar resources evaluation for a given region. Using a solar modeling program such as PVSYST, analysts estimate the total megawatt hours an installation would generate in the course of its useful life, based on a 30-year average of climate data for the region.
Site location studies look at the feasibility and cost of an installation at a given site. Sites with slope of less than five degrees reduce the amount of civil work required, and proximity to a transmission line or substation reduces the cost of connecting to the grid. The choice of technologies — crystalline or thin-film photovoltaics, fixed or tracking panels, even types of mounting systems — is closely tied to site location and also affects cost.
Data from solar resources and site location studies provide inputs for a levelized cost-of-energy analysis. This analysis yields key information decision-makers need to compare a solar installation to other alternatives and calculate the projected return on investment.
For more information, contact Peter Johnston, 480-337-6504.