Limits and Economic Effects of Distributed PV Generation in North and South Carolina

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The variability of renewable sources, such as wind and solar, when integrated into the electrical system must be compensated by traditional generation sources in-order to maintain the constant balance of supply and demand required for grid stability. The goal of this study is to analyze the effects of increasing large levels of solar Photovoltaic (PV) penetration (in terms of a percentage of annual energy production) on a test grid with similar characteristics to the Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) and Progress Energy Carolinas (PEC) regions of North and South Carolina. PV production is modeled entering the system at the distribution level and regional PV capacity is based on household density. A gridded hourly global horizontal irradiance (GHI) dataset is used to capture the variable nature of PV generation. A unit commitment model (UCM) is then used determine the hourly dispatch of generators based on generator parameters and costs to supply generation to meet demand. Annual modeled results for six different scenarios are evaluated to determine technical, environmental and economic effects of varying levels of distributed PV penetration on the system.

This study finds that the main limiting factor for PV integration in the DEC and PEC balancing authority regions is defined by the large generating capacity of base-load nuclear plants within the system. This threshold starts to affect system stability at integration levels of 5.7%. System errors, defined by imbalances caused by over or under generation with respect to demand, are identified in the model however the validity of these errors in real world context needs further examination due to the lack of high frequency irradiance data and modeling limitations. Operational system costs decreased as expected with PV integration although further research is needed to explore the impacts of the capital costs required to achieve the penetration levels found in this study. PV system generation was found to mainly displace coal generation creating a loss of revenue for generator owners. In all scenarios, CO2 emissions were reduced with PV integration. This reduction could be used to meet impending EPA state-specific CO2 emissions targets.





Holt, Kyra Moore (2014). Limits and Economic Effects of Distributed PV Generation in North and South Carolina. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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