Degree Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Michael B. Pate

Second Advisor

Ron M. Nelson

Abstract

Three primary objectives were defined for this work. The first objective was to determine, assess, and compare the performance, heat transfer characteristics, economics, and feasibility of real-world stationary and dual-axis tracking grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) systems in the Upper Midwest. This objective was achieved by installing two grid-connected PV systems with different mounting schemes in central Iowa, implementing extensive data acquisition systems, monitoring operation of the PV systems for one full year, and performing detailed experimental performance and economic studies. The two PV systems that were installed, monitored, and analyzed included a 4.59 kWp roof-mounted stationary system oriented for maximum annual energy production, and a 1.02 kWp pole-mounted actively controlled dual-axis tracking system. The second objective was to demonstrate the actual use and performance of real-world stationary and dual-axis tracking grid-connected PV systems used for building energy generation applications. This objective was achieved by offering the installed PV systems to the public for demonstration purposes and through the development of three computer-based tools: a software interface that has the ability to display real-time and historical performance and meteorological data of both systems side-by-side, a software interface that shows real-time and historical video and photographs of each system, and a calculator that can predict performance and economics of stationary and dual-axis tracking grid-connected PV systems at various locations in the United States. The final objective was to disseminate this work to social, professional, scientific, and academic communities in a way that is applicable, objective, accurate, accessible, and comprehensible. This final objective will be addressed by publishing the results of this work and making the computer-based tools available on a public website (www.energy.iastate.edu/Renewable/solar).

Detailed experimental performance analyses were performed for both systems; results were quantified and compared between systems, focusing on measures of solar resource, energy generation, power production, and efficiency. This work also presents heat transfer characteristics of both arrays and quantifies the affects of operating temperature on PV system performance in terms of overall heat transfer coefficients and temperature coefficients for power. To assess potential performance of PV in the Upper Midwest, models were built to predict performance of the PV systems operating at lower temperatures. Economic analyses were performed for both systems focusing on measures of life-cycle cost, payback period, internal rate of return, and average incremental cost of solar energy. The potential economic feasibility of grid-connected stationary PV systems used for building energy generation in the Upper Midwest was assessed under assumptions of higher utility energy costs, lower initial installed costs, and different metering agreements.

The annual average daily solar insolation seen by the stationary and dual-axis tracking systems was found to be 4.37 and 5.95 kWh/m2, respectively. In terms of energy generation, the tracking system outperformed the stationary system on annual, monthly, and often daily bases; normalized annual energy generation for the tracking and stationary systems were found to be 1,779 and 1,264 kWh/kWp, respectively. The annual average conversion efficiencies of the tracking and stationary systems were found to be approximately 11 and 10.7 percent, respectively. Annual performance ratio values of the tracking and stationary system were found to be 0.819 and 0.792, respectively.

The net present values of both systems under all assumed discount rates were determined to be negative. Further, neither system was found to have a payback period less than the assumed system life of 25 years. The rate-of-return of the stationary and tracking systems were found to be -3.3 and -4.9 percent, respectively. Furthermore, the average incremental cost of energy provided by the stationary and dual-axis tracking systems over their assumed useful life is projected to be $0.31 and $0.37 dollars per kWh, respectively. Results of this study suggest that grid-connected PV systems used for building energy generation in the Upper Midwest are not yet economically feasible when compared to a range of alternative investments; however, PV systems could show feasibility under more favorable economic scenarios.

Throughout the year of monitoring, array operating temperatures ranged from -24.7 oC (-12.4oF) to 61.7 oC (143.1 oF) for the stationary system and -23.9 oC (-11 oF) to 52.7 oC (126.9 oF) for the dual-axis tracking system during periods of system operation. The hourly average overall heat transfer coefficients for solar irradiance levels greater than 200 W/m2 for the stationary and dual-axis tracking systems were found to be 20.8 and 29.4 W/m2oC, respectively. The experimental temperature coefficients for power for the stationary and dual-axis tracking systems at a solar irradiance level of 1,000 W/m2 were -0.30 and -0.38 %/oC, respectively. Simulations of the stationary and dual-axis tracking systems operating at lower temperatures suggest that annual conversion efficiencies could potentially be increased by to up 4.3 and 4.6 percent, respectively.

Copyright Owner

Ryan Duwain Warren

Language

en

Date Available

2012-04-30

File Format

application/pdf

File Size

231 pages

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