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Chem Cent J. 2012 Apr 23;6 Suppl 1:S6. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-6-S1-S6.

The place of solar power: an economic analysis of concentrated and distributed solar power.

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  • 1The College, The University of Chicago, 5801 South Ellis Ave,, Chicago, IL, USA. vane@uchicago.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

This paper examines the cost and benefits, both financial and environmental, of two leading forms of solar power generation, grid-tied photovoltaic cells and Dish Stirling Systems, using conventional carbon-based fuel as a benchmark.

METHODS:

First we define how these solar technologies will be implemented and why. Then we delineate a model city and its characteristics, which will be used to test the two methods of solar-powered electric distribution. Then we set the constraining assumptions for each technology, which serve as parameters for our calculations. Finally, we calculate the present value of the total cost of conventional energy needed to power our model city and use this as a benchmark when analyzing both solar models' benefits and costs.

RESULTS:

The preeminent form of distributed electricity generation, grid-tied photovoltaic cells under net-metering, allow individual homeowners a degree of electric self-sufficiency while often turning a profit. However, substantial subsidies are required to make the investment sensible. Meanwhile, large dish Stirling engine installations have a significantly higher potential rate of return, but face a number of pragmatic limitations.

CONCLUSIONS:

This paper concludes that both technologies are a sensible investment for consumers, but given that the dish Stirling consumer receives 6.37 dollars per watt while the home photovoltaic system consumer receives between 0.9 and 1.70 dollars per watt, the former appears to be a superior option. Despite the large investment, this paper deduces that it is far more feasible to get few strong investors to develop a solar farm of this magnitude, than to get 150,000 households to install photovoltaic arrays in their roofs. Potential implications of the solar farm construction include an environmental impact given the size of land require for this endeavour. However, the positive aspects, which include a large CO2 emission reduction aggregated over the lifespan of the farm, outweigh any minor concerns or potential externalities.

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