Residential Solar PV Systems in the Carolinas: Opportunities and Outcomes

This paper presents a first-order analysis of the feasibility and technical, environmental, and economic effects of large levels of solar photovoltaic (PV) penetration within the services areas of the Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) and Duke Energy Progress (DEP). A PV production model based on household density and a gridded hourly global horizontal irradiance data set simulates hourly PV power output from roof-top installations, while a unit commitment and real-time economic dispatch (UC–ED) model simulates hourly system operations. We find that the large generating capacity of base-load nuclear power plants (NPPs) without ramping capability in the region limits PV integration levels to 5.3% (6510 MW) of 2015 generation. Enabling ramping capability for NPPs would raise the limit of PV penetration to near 9% of electricity generated. If the planned retirement of coal-fired power plants together with new installations and upgrades of natural gas and nuclear plants materialize in 2025, and if NPPs operate flexibly, then the share of coal-fired electricity will be reduced from 37% to 22%. A 9% penetration of electricity from PV would further reduce the share of coal-fired electricity by 4–6% resulting in a system-wide CO2 emissions rate of 0.33 to 0.40 tons/MWh and associated abatement costs of 225–415 (2015$ per ton).