A general framework for multi-criteria based feasibility studies for solar energy projects: application to a real-world solar farm

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Abstract

The growth of solar energy is projected to slow down during 2023–25 despite the fall in costs due to economic deceleration, reduced incentives, and market barriers including the lack of relevant and flexible energy project planning and decision-making tools. This study proposes a flexible and computationally simple multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA)-based model that takes technical, financial, environmental, social and legal aspects of all project options as input and outputs a feasibility score for each option, which enables ranking the options and identifying the best alternative. The proposed model is applied to a real-world photovoltaic solar farm planned at a site in England and comprising nine different configurations formed by varying system capacity, energy storage option, mode of stakeholder, and network connections. The results of our study show that in this case the options without battery storage and a greater number of off-taker connections are more favorable than the options with battery storage. The analysis also shows that for the solar farm of the presented case study, ‘self-consumption fraction’ and ‘energy yield’, ‘net present value’, ‘life-cycle carbon emission reduction’, ‘ease of permit acquisition’ and ‘public approval’ are key sub-criteria for ‘technical’, ‘financial’, ‘environmental’, and ‘social and legal’ criteria, respectively. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to assess the confidence on the obtained solution, and a change in the first preference was noticed when ‘environmental’ and ‘social and legal’ aspects are given higher weight over ‘technical’ and ‘financial’ aspects. The results obtained are in line with the recommendations by experts, who carried out an independent feasibility analysis considering the same options.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2204
Number of pages34
JournalEnergies
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Feasibility
  • Multi criteria decision analysis
  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar energy
  • Solar farm

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