David Vance Thesis 12_06_18.pdf (15.12 MB)

Developing a PV and Energy Storage Sizing Methodology for Off-Grid Communities

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posted on 16.10.2019 by David Vance
Combining rooftop solar with energy storage for off-grid residential operation is restrictively expensive. Historically, operating off-grid requires an 'isolated self-consumption' operating strategy where any excess generation is wasted and to ensure reliability you must install costly, polluting generators or a large amount of energy storage. With the advent of Blockchain technology residents can come together and establish transactive microgrids which have two possible operating strategies: Centralized Energy Sharing (CES) and Interconnected Energy Sharing (IES). The CES strategy proposes that all systems combine their photovoltaic (PV) generation and energy storage systems (ESS) to meet their loads. IES strategy establishes an energy trading system between stand-alone systems which allows buying energy when battery capacity is empty and selling energy when battery capacity is full. Transactive microgrids have been investigated analytically by several sources, none of which consider year-round off-grid operation.
A simulation tool was developed through MATLAB for comparing the three operating strategies: isolated self-consumption, CES, and IES. This simulation tool could easily be incorporated into existing software such as HOMER.

The effect of several variables on total cost was tested including interconnection type, initial charge, load variability, starting month, number of stand-alone systems, geographic location, and required reliability.
It was found that the CES strategy improves initial cost by 7\% to 10\% compared to the baseline (isolated self-consumption) and IES cases in every simulation. The IES case consistently saved money compared to the baseline, just by a very small amount (less than 1\%). Initial charge was investigated for March, July, and November and was only found to have an effect in November. More research should be done to show the effect of initial charge for every month of the year. Load variability had inconsistent results between the two geographic locations studied, Indianapolis and San Antonio. This result would be improved with an improved load simulation which includes peak shifting. The number of systems did not have a demonstrable effect, giving the same cost whether there were 2 systems or 50 involved in the trading strategies. It may be that only one other system is necessary to receive the benefits from a transactive microgrid. Geographic locations studied (Indianapolis, Indiana; Phoenix, Arizona; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Erie, Pennsylvania) showed a large effect on the total cost with Phoenix being considerably cheaper than any other location and Erie having the highest cost. This result was expected due to each geographic location's load and solar radiation profiles. Required reliability showed a consistent and predictable effect with cost going down as the requirement relaxed and more hours of outage were allowed.

In order to accomplish off-grid operation with favorable economics it is likely that a system will need to reduce its reliability requirement, adopt energy saving consumption habits, choose a favorable geographic location, and either establish a transactive microgrid or include secondary energy generation and/or storage.


Degree Type

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ali Razban

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Peter Schubert

Additional Committee Member 2

Robert Weissbach