Masters Thesis

Democratizing the Grid: Estimating Solar Potential for the City of Irvine

Global climate change is the most important environmental issue currently facing mankind and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the only method that has been identified as way to slow down the rate of change that is being experienced. Production of electricity through carbon based technologies is a major contributor to the emissions entering the atmosphere and can be reduced or eliminated by transitioning to the use of renewable energy sources such as wind or solar in energy production. This paper studies the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on commercial and residential rooftops in a distributed generation model as an alternative to the centralized production and transmission model of electricity that currently exists to determine if distributed generation has the potential to replace the existing system. The paper examines the history of the centralized system and explores some of the weaknesses associated with this model of energy production. The solar potential of the City of Irvine was calculated to determine what percentage of the city’s energy demands could be met through rooftop PV systems and recommendations are made regarding public policies that would assist the city in reaching that potential. This model could then be transplanted to other municipalities with similar characteristics and potential.

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