An economically feasible optimization of photovoltaic provision using real electricity demand: A case study in New York city

Rui Zhu, Man Sing Wong (Corresponding Author), Mei Po Kwan, Min Chen, Paolo Santi, Carlo Ratti

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Solar farming has been experiencing explosive development in recent years. However, developing solar farming in urban areas is challenged by the heterogeneous distribution of solar irradiation in spatial and degradation of photovoltaic (PV) efficiency that make the economic performance uncertain. To tackle this problem, this study develops a spatio-temporal analytic model and a techno-economic assessment model to optimize PV provision to ensure that a PV system can meet the electricity demand and obtain reasonable profit simultaneously. Specifically, based on the estimation of solar potential on three-dimensional urban envelopes, the study determines PV favorable locations that are quantitatively large and spatially concentrated. Then, PV capacities in two comparative architectures, i.e., self-reliance relying on own building surfaces and external-support seeking supports from external rooftops, are planned to meet real electricity demand. Furthermore, the PV capacity is optimized, constrained by a constant electricity rate without Feed-in Tariff, a decreasing PV efficiency, and an increasing cost for maintenance. A case study in New York City suggests that the optimized PV installation can significantly offset household electricity consumption. In addition, the estimated net profit is significant even in rigorous conditions, which is inspiring for promoting distributed solar harvesting and competing with the local electricity market.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103614
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Building integrated photovoltaic
  • Geographical information science
  • Life cycle economic assessment
  • Solar energy
  • Solar PV planning
  • Techno-economic assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Transportation


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