Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Environmental Engineering and Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Anctil, Annick

Committee Member

Lee , Cindy

Committee Member

Brame , Scott


Photovoltaic (PV) development shows significantly smaller growth in the Southeast U.S., than in the Southwest; which is mainly due to the low cost of fossil-fuel based energy production in the region and the lack of solar incentives. However, the Southeast has appropriate insolation conditions (4.0-6.0 KWh/m2/day) for photovoltaic deployment and in the past decade the region has experienced the highest population growth for the entire country. These factors, combined with new renewable energy portfolio policies, could create an opportunity for PV to provide some of the energy that will be required to sustain this growth. The goal of the study was to investigate the potential for PV generation in the Southeast region by identifying suitable areas for a utility-scale solar power plant deployment. Four states with currently low solar penetration were studied: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Feasible areas were assessed with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software using solar, land use and population growth criteria combined with proximity to transmission lines and roads. After the GIS-based assessment of the areas, technological potential was calculated for each state. Multi-decision analysis model (MCDA) was used to simulate the decision making method for a strategic PV installation. The model accounted for all criteria necessary to consider in case of a PV development and also included economic and policy criteria, which is thought to be a strong influence on the PV market. Three different scenarios were established, representing decision makers' theoretical preferences. Map layers created in the first part were used as basis for the MCDA and additional technical, economic and political/market criteria were added. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to test the model's robustness. Finally, weighted criteria were assigned to the GIS map layers, so that the different preference systems could be visualized. As a result, lands suitable for a potential industrial-scale PV deployment were assessed. Moreover, a precise calculation for technical potential was conducted, with a capacity factor determined by the actual insolation of the sum of each specific feasible area. The results of the study showed that, for a utility-scale PV utility deployment, significant amount of feasible areas are available, with good electricity generation potential Moreover, a stable MCDA model was established for supporting strategic decision making in a PV deployment. Also, changes of suitable lands for utility-scale PV installations were visualized in GIS for the state of Tennessee.



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