Performance Analysis of Grid-Connected Photovoltaic Systems
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Solar energy is one of the most promising renewable resources that can be used to produce electric energy through photovoltaic process. A significant advantage of photovoltaic (PV) systems is the use of the abundant and free energy from the sun. However, these systems still face major obstacles that hinder their widespread use due to their high cost and low efficiency when compared with other renewable technologies. Moreover, the intermittent nature of the output power of PV systems reduces their reliability in providing continuous power to customers. In addition, the fluctuations in the output power due to variations in irradiance might lead to undesirable performance of the electric network. The support of governments, electric utilities, researchers and consumers is the key to overcoming the aforementioned obstacles and enhancing the maturity of the technology in this field. The primary objective of the research proposed in this thesis is to facilitate increasing the penetration levels of PV systems in the electric network. This can be achieved by quantifying and analyzing the impacts of installing large grid-connected photovoltaic systems on the performance of the electric network accurately. To achieve this objective, the development of a new and intelligent method is introduced. The method utilizes the available data efficiently to produce accurate realistic results about the performance of the electric network without overestimating or underestimating the impacts of the PV system. The method utilizes historical environmental data collected over a number of years to estimate the profile of the output power of the PV system. In addition, the method considers the actual data of the electric network. Hence, the interaction between the output power of the PV system and the electric network components can be simulated to identify the possible operational problems. After identifying the operational problems that might arise due to installing PV systems, especially due to power fluctuations, different strategies that can mitigate these problems are studied in detail. These strategies include installation of energy storage devices, use of dump loads, and operation below the maximum power point. Upon studying the mitigation strategies, their economical aspects are investigated. The economical aspect is crucial for PV systems because of their high cost, which is reflected on the price of the energy produced by them. The presented research integrates techniques from different fields of engineering such as data mining, mathematical optimization and power systems. This research is expected to contribute to the advancement of PV technology by introducing methods that will help in carrying out in-depth evaluation of the performance of PV systems and providing feasible solutions to the operational problems that might arise from the installation of these systems.