Date of Award

Spring 2022

Project Type


Program or Major

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Weiwei Mo

Second Advisor

Kevin Gardner

Third Advisor

Clayton Mitchell


Participation of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in the organized electricity wholesale market is expected to increase under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 2222 announced in 2020. Our understanding about the technical, economic, and environmental tradeoffs and co-benefits of solar PV adoption on both building and regional scales remains limited, especially considering the complexity of varied distributed solar PV-battery system designs and operation strategies as well as the dynamic interactions of these distributed generations with the centralized grid. This dissertation therefore aims to investigate the grid load reduction, life cycle cost, and life cycle environmental (e.g., carbon, water, and energy footprints) performances of typical distributed PV systems considering their dynamic interactions with the centralized grid. This dissertation intends to examine the possible scenarios in which future adoption of PV systems can facilitate economic saving, reduce environmental footprints, relieve centralized grid stress, and supplement differential electricity demands of residential energy users on both building and city scales. To this end, a modeling framework was developed consisting of a stochastic residential electricity demand model, a system dynamics model of solar energy generation, energy balance, storage, and selling, and life cycle economic and environmental assessment model. The stochastic residential electricity demand simulation considered five typical types of household occupants and eight types of households. The generated solar energy, grid supply, and residential demand were balanced for each residential building using energy balance model. This model was further scaled up to a city level using Boston, MA as a testbed. On the building level, we found a clear tradeoff between the life cycle cost and environmental savings when sizing the PV systems differently. Moreover, installing a solar PV-battery system but without an effective control strategy can result in sub-optimized peak-load reduction, economic, and environmental outcomes. Installing solar PV-battery systems with proper controls can achieve the highest on-peak load reductions and economic benefits under the time-of-use utility rate design. However, they do not necessarily provide the highest environmental benefits, indicating a potential technical, environmental, and economic tradeoff. Our regional analysis found a large penetration of solar PV systems may result in a steeper ramp-up of the grid load during winter days, but it may provide load-shedding benefits during summer days. Large buildings may perform the best technically and environmentally when adopting solar PV systems, but they may have higher life cycle costs.