Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Advisor 1

Joshua Pearce

Committee Member 1

Chelsea Schelly

Committee Member 2

Lucia Gauchia Babe

Abstract

Technical improvements and scaling have resulted in a significant reduction in solar photovoltaic (PV) module costs, which have resulted in PV industry growth both globally as well as in the United States. In many regions there have been favorable policies for solar energy due to the positive public response and support for growth of solar energy. As the demand for PV installations continues to increase, the costs continue to decline, feeding a virtuous cycle. This thesis is composed of a three part study directed towards technical as well as economical analysis of new technologies for residential solar photovoltaic systems for increasing in the PV penetration level as well as reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States.

First, a technical and economical analysis is performed of a complete off-grid hybrid system comprising a solar PV unit, battery storage unit and cogen unit for residential sector in United States. A new method of quantifying the economic viability of off-grid PV+battery+CHP systems by calculating the LCOE of the technology is compared to centralized grid electricity. A case study for residential electricity and thermal demand in an extreme worst case environment (Houghton, Michigan) is provided to demonstrate the methodology. Moreover, a sensitivity analysis was carried out for various input assumptions to provide decision makers with clear guides to the viability of such a hybrid system and to provide support through a preliminary analysis that indicated a potential increase in grid defection in the U.S. in the near future.

Second, a technical evaluation is made as well as safety analysis is made for a fully inclusive, commercial, off-the-shelf PV system (normally consisting of a PV module and microinverter), which a prosumer can install by plugging it into an electric outlet and avoiding the need for significant permitting, inspection and interconnection processes. Such systems are referred to as ‘plug and play solar’ systems. The relevant codes and standards from the National Electric Code, local jurisdictions and utilities was reviewed for PV with a specific focus on plug-and-play solar. A streamlined application process is provided with only technical requirements to ease utility implementation. The results indicated that supporting the installation of plug-and-play solar PV with UL (Underwriters Laboratory) certified microinverters will improve PV system performance, will lead to faster uptake and higher PV penetration levels, will also improve prosumer economics, and more environmentally responsible electric power generation.

Finally, a U.S. market analysis is performed for plug and play solar assuming the U.S. regulations modernize and permit the installation of plug and play solar for the residential sector. This study provides an estimate of this new U.S. market for plug and play PV systems if such regulations are updated by investigating personal financial decision making for Americans. The potential savings for the prosumer are mapped for the U.S. over a range of scenarios. This study shows that this system would generate approximately 108,417 thousand MWh per year and this distributed solar energy, which would provide prosumers approximately $13 billion/year in electricity cost savings.

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Available for download on Wednesday, April 04, 2018

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