Increasing the Electricity Generation Capacity from Solar Resources at Duke University

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Duke University has set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2024. This study explores the alternative of contributing to this target through the installation of solar photovoltaic systems (PV) from environmental, technical, regulatory, economic, and financial perspectives. It estimates the technical potential of on-site PV on the main Duke Campus and assesses the opportunities and challenges posed by federal and state regulations. We found out that the maximum technical potential of solar PV systems is 51.5 MWdc when being installed on rooftops and 35.6 MWdc when being installed atop parking lots. Together, Duke University owns 87.1 MWdc on-site PV technical potential.

Our power system operation analysis illustrates that the on-site solar capacity addition at Duke University would incrementally reduce the system cost and emissions, while the 300-MWdc solar farm would negatively impact the power system economics and grid reliability. The costs of installation on parking lots are lower than on rooftops, but due to economies of scale, the most economical option to reduce emissions is to install off-site solar farms. For the cost-effectiveness of sustainability, this study also estimates the carbon abatement costs (COA) of carbon-abating strategies including PV, carbon offset, and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that Duke University could apply at this stage under business-as-usual (BAU) and carbon-tax scenarios.

We also find that state regulations severely limit the benefits of on-campus PV development given a) the lack of programs allowing the participation of third-party energy providers, b) the limitation of standard Power Purchase Agreements for solar energy facilities to less than 1 MWdc, and c) the lack of certainty on the value of RECs.





Zhang, Jun, and Ricardo Zaragoza Castillo (2018). Increasing the Electricity Generation Capacity from Solar Resources at Duke University. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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