Modelling solar energy cost-benefit balance

Photovoltaic (PV) systems that harness the Sun's virtually limitless supply of energy are now visible in limited locations across Europe. A new open-source simulation platform will foster lower costs and enhanced performance for mass market uptake.

PV technology has come a long way since humans used magnifying glasses to concentrate the Sun's rays and make fire thousands of years ago. The 1950s saw the birth of modern silicon PVs, and the race is now on for higher efficiency and lower cost to make the technology truly accessible everywhere.

One of the key PV performance indicators identified by the Solar Europe Industrial Initiative of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) is the levelised cost of energy (LCoE). The LCoE depends on investment cost, energy production, operational and maintenance costs, and lifetime. The EU-funded project 'Photovoltaic cost r€duction, reliability, operational performance, prediction and simulation' (PVCROPS) is developing a simulation environment aimed at minimising LCoE and enhancing integration of PV technology into the grid.

The team has already set up the project website, which invites users to take advantage of the open-source simulation tool to optimise PV designs and estimate revenues. Using user-supplied data, the tool calculates energy yield, energy losses and financial returns. The interface is available in six languages. It provides opportunities to customise the simulation based on exact location (longitude, latitude and altitude), meteorological data, PV characteristics and much more. There is an extended interface for input of economic and financial data as well.

Scientists prepared a manual of best practices for implementing PV systems to improve quality and reduce cost. It is available in eight languages. Ahead of schedule, they also delivered a preliminary version of technical specifications for grid-connected PV systems. In addition to all the toolboxes based largely on data collected in the field, the website provides the opportunity to explore PV business opportunities from the standpoint of investor or industry developer.

PVCROPS is making a critical contribution to the future of EU solar energy with tools focused on minimising the LCoE and enhancing integration with the grid. Higher performance at a lower cost and compatibility with existing systems will ensure that more and more homes and businesses get on board for maximum impact on global climate change and sustainability.

last modification: 2015-05-07 16:56:42

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