Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2010



The world runs on the electricity provided by gas, oil, and coal. These sources, while cheap, have some major drawbacks associated with them; they are polluting when burned, extraction damages the environment, and the resource reservoirs are limited. With this understanding, the world is turning to renewable energy sources as a means to alleviate its growing energy requirements. But there are problems associated with renewable energy sources preventing them from becoming major sources of electricity generation. These problems are usually monetary in nature.

The cost effectiveness of photovoltaic panels for use by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a means of electricity generation was investigated. A simple atmospheric radiation transfer model which estimates solar radiation receipt values for optimally tilted and tracking photovoltaic panels was utilized. An angle of 36° was determined as optimal for the Lincoln area. Model values were applied to solar panel efficiencies and areas to determine actual received radiation per unit area by the panel. Panels averaged 279 kWh per year when fixed; 336 kWh per year when fitted with tracking equipment. Finally, the estimated panel reception was multiplied by the price of electricity per kWh. Photovoltaic systems are not currently cost effective in Lincoln, NE for commercial use due to low conversion efficiencies of the panels, high installation expenses, and cheap public energy.