Cross Functional Team Produces Climate and Solar Power Cost Publication


Mallory Flowers
NSF IGERT Fellow, School of Public Policy
Georgia Institute of Technology

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Cross Functional Team Publication

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  • Mallory Flowers Mallory Flowers

A new publication by Georgia Tech students demonstrates regional variation in the costs of solar power from photovoltaic (PV) technologies. Authors Mallory Flowers (SPP), Matthew Smith (MSE), Ara Parsekian (ME), Dmitriy Boyuk (ME), Jenna McGrath (SPP), and Luke Yates (ME) teamed up as an interdisciplinary force to develop a tool to weigh the gains of panel efficiency against the losses from wear and degradation to PV systems over time. The results demonstrate that the costs of solar electricity, which vary from location to location, depend on more than just the amount of sunlight. Local climate conditions may promote panel efficiency (producing more electricity), but may also cause wear and tear on panels that limits productivity and shortens panel life. Low cost solar power is feasible in more than just the sunny deserts of Arizona, as results indicate similar long-run costs in Arizona and Georgia.

Publicaton Abstract:

Photovoltaic (PV) Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) estimates are widely utilized by decision makers to predict the long-term cost and benefits of solar PV installations, but fail to consider local climate, which impacts PV panel lifetime and performance. Specific types of solar PV panels are known to respond to climate factors differently. Mono-, poly-, and amorphous-silicon (Si) PV technologies are known to exhibit varying degradation rates and instantaneous power losses as a function of operating temperature, humidity, thermal cycling, and panel soiling. We formulate an extended LCOE calculation, which considers PV module performance and lifespan as a function of local climate. The LCOE is then calculated for crystalline and amorphous Si PV technologies across several climates. Finally, we assess the impact of various policy incentives on reducing the firm's cost of solar deployment when controlling for climate. This assessment is the first to quantify tradeoffs between technologies, geographies, and policies in a unified manner. Results suggest crystalline Si solar panels as the most promising candidate for commercial-scale PV systems due to their low degradation rates compared to amorphous technologies. Across technologies, we note the strong ability of investment subsidies in removing uncertainty and reducing the LCOE, compared to production incentives.

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School of Public Policy

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  • Created On: Jul 12, 2016 - 8:37pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:22pm