Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

2020

Abstract

Solar energy is known as a green and clean source of energy and programs such as the Solarize Philly promote its use so people can enjoy its benefits. However, one cannot overlook the fact that producing electricity via solar panels produces emissions at various stages along the life cycle. In this paper, a sustainability analysis of the Solarize Philly program was carried out with aims to quantify and depict the environmental and monetary costs and benefits of the program as a whole and to its individual customers. The analysis includes a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to estimate the environmental impact in terms of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions produced per kWh of electricity generated. The analysis is further followed by a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of five households that participated in the program representing a range of installation costs.

The LCA showed that the average life cycle emissions of a panel used in the program is 99.8 gCO2e/kWh and can offset up to 395 gCO2e/kWh of emissions coming from conventional grid electricity.

The CBA was conducted for five installations with system sizes ranging from 5kW to 8kW and installation prices ranging from $16,000 to $28,000. All these projects were observed to be cost – effective. The average Net Present Value (NPV) for all projects was $11,941and the average Discounted Payback Time (DPT) was 8.26 years which is well within the project duration of 25 years.

As of April 2020, Solarize Philly has enabled 654 homeowners in Philadelphia install solar on their rooftops with additional projects in the installation pipeline. This study quantifies the environmental impact that Solarize Philly participants have had over three phases of the program and highlights its benefits.

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Date Posted: 12 May 2020