﻿
School of Science and Engineering
Capstone Final Report
Profitability Analysis of Large-Scale Photovoltaic
Power Plants
Written by
Ayoub El Haimar
Supervised by
Dr. Kissani Ilham
Submitted on: 20
th
April (Spring 2015)
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Contents
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
............................................................................................................................... 3
ABSTRACT
.................................................................................................................................................. 4
INTRODUCTION
........................................................................................................................................ 5
1.
Motivation:
...................................................................................................................................... 5
2.
Challenges:
....................................................................................................................................... 6
3.
Objectives:
....................................................................................................................................... 6
4.
Overview of the Energy Sector in Morocco:
................................................................................. 6
BACKGROUND
.......................................................................................................................................... 8
1.
Solar Energy Harnessing Technology:
.......................................................................................... 8
2.
Mathematical Background:
........................................................................................................... 9
For sections 2.2 till 2.4, most of the mathematical background was found in [6].
................................... 9
2.1
The Monte Carlo Simulation:
.................................................................................................. 9
2.2
The Generalized Lognormal Distribution:
............................................................................ 10
2.3
SimTools:
................................................................................................................................ 11
2.4
Subjective Probability Assessment:
....................................................................................... 12
DESIGN OF THE FINANCIAL MODEL
................................................................................................. 13
1.
Overview of the Methodology:
..................................................................................................... 13
2.
Estimations and Assumptions:
..................................................................................................... 15
2.1
Fixed Costs and Electricity Selling Price:
............................................................................. 15
2.2
Logarithmic Growth Rate Estimations:
................................................................................ 16
2.3
Expected Plant Production:
................................................................................................... 17
2.4
Subjective Probability Assessment of the 5th Year Sales:
.................................................... 18
RESULTS OF THE MONTE CARLO SIMULATION AND DISCUSSION
........................................... 19
1.
Simulation of Sales:
....................................................................................................................... 19
2.
Cash Flow Model:
......................................................................................................................... 20
3.
The Simulation Results for the Profits NPV:
............................................................................. 21
4.
Discussion:
..................................................................................................................................... 23
CONCLUSION
........................................................................................................................................... 25
STEEPLE ANALYSIS
............................................................................................................................... 26
1.
Social:
............................................................................................................................................. 26
2.
Technological:
............................................................................................................................... 26
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ACKNOWLEDGMENT
First of all, I would like to thank Al Akhawayn University and the School of Science &
Engineering, for providing me with a good environment to work on this project entitled
Profitability Analysis of Large-Scale Photovoltaic Power Plants
”. Also, I
am thankful to Dr.
Ilham Kissani for all the efforts and time she allocated to my supervision while working on this
project and for providing me with the necessary knowledge, tools and support I needed. I would
like to express my gratitude to Dr. Ilham Kissani for accepting to be my supervisor and for being
always welcoming and professional. I would like to thank Dr. Yassine Saleh Alj for making the
capstone requirements clear and concise as well as for organizing very interesting talks/lectures.
Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my family and
friends for giving me the moral strength I needed to work on this capstone throughout the whole
semester.
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ABSTRACT
This report provides a study of the economic viability of investing in utility-scale
photovoltaic power plants that will be used to generate electricity that will be fed into the grid. In
fact, the study will be an application of simulation modeling and uncertainty analysis. The
project will start with a cost-benefit analysis that is intended to estimate the costs related to
building/extending/maintaining the facility as well as the benefits that may be generated through
selling electricity to the local power company. Simulation modeling and uncertainty analysis will
be used to estimate the net present value of profits from the proposed project over a certain
period of time. Two plans are considered; the first consists of continuing the extension of the
plant
regardless of the first year’s sales, while the second consists of t
erminating the project in
case the first year’s sales performance falls below a given threshold.
The main technique that
will be used is the Monte Carlo simulation using Simtools in Excel. The results  show that
utility-scale Photovoltaic plants are profitable on the long run. Also, the two plans are compared
based on the simulations and the 1
st
one proves to be best option.
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INTRODUCTION
Recently, there has been a significantly increasing interest in renewable energies all over
the world. The need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the constantly increasing energy
demand and the shrinking energy resources imply that we should switch to renewable energies as
clean, abundant and cheap forms of energy. In a country like Morocco, where there is a heavy
reliance on imported fossil fuels to satisfy energy demands, switching to green energy is not just
an option; it is a priority. In addition to the very high cost of importing energy, it impedes the
socio-economic development of the country as the heavy reliance on imports makes it difficult to
adjust energy supply to energy demand.
Furthermore, the energy produced by private renewable energy producers is mainly
targeted at industrials. So, investing in
solar energy businesses that are targeted at households
supply needs to be considered to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. Therefore, the profitability of
such an investment has to be able to assess its economic viability.
1.  Motivation:
Undoubtedly, Morocco will have a bright future in the field of renewable energies,
especially solar energy. In fact, the country has very important solar resources with a potential of
2600 kWh/m
2
/year [1]. Such an extremely significant irradiation necessitates that we think about
ways we can fully exploit it. Although Morocco is the only African country that has the most
ambitious solar energy project, the pace at which the sector is growing needs to be boosted.
Actually, the Moroccan solar energy project aims at developing 2000 MW by 2020, and that is a
very promising target. However, since these kinds of projects are very large, they usually require
a lot of time and money. That is why, encouraging investment in small solar energy plants that
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will generate electricity for home-use can be more appealing to individual investors. However,
the potential of such projects has to be investigated before proceeding with the investment.
Indeed, setting up even a small solar business costs a lot of money and realizing substantial
returns at the beginning will certainly be difficult.
2.  Challenges:
The main challenge in this project is the scarcity of data. In fact, since this kind of power
facilities is not very popular yet in Morocco, it is very difficult to come up with good estimates
of costs and benefits within the Moroccan context. In light of this situation, the latter values will
be rounded to the best possible estimates. Moreover, most of the tools and techniques I will use
in this project are ones I encounter for the first time. This requires of course a lot of reading and
practice so that I can apply general concepts to this very specific case.
3.  Objectives:
The main goal of this project is to come up with a simulation model that can be used to
estimate the expected net present value of profits from investing in a solar energy business.
Doing so will help us better understand how such investment can be undertaken. Different
investment options will be analyzed in order to see the risks involved in each option. Such an
analysis will help us get some insights into the economic viability of photovoltaic power plants
as a private investment.
4.  Overview of the Energy Sector in Morocco:
It is very well known that Morocco is highly dependent on foreign imports (mainly
hydrocarbons) to satisfy its domestic energy needs. According to the World Bank, in 2011 the
country imported about 96% of its energy needs [2]. This heavy dependence on imported fossil
fuels implies vulnerability to global changes in gas and oil prices as well as poor security of
supply. That is wh
y the country is “working to expand its oil storage and distribution
capabilities”
[3]. More importantly, while some storage and distribution terminals are currently
being developed in Jorf Lasfar, a 3.35 million barrel-capacity terminal has already been
constructed in Tangier [3].
A great portion of the imported hydrocarbons is targeted at electricity production.
Although the country has tried in the past to diversify its electricity generation sources (through
hydroelectric generation for example), the currently installed capacity is relatively low compared
to the country’s net electricity consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration
reported that Morocco’s net electricity consumption was 26.7 GW in 2012, while the installed
capacity did not exceed 6.76 GWe during the same year [3]. Therefore, looking for alternative
ways of electricity generation has become a priority for the country.
To reduce its dependency on foreign imports, Morocco has launched a very promising
strategy which aims at developing green energy (solar, wind and hydroelectricity) to satisfy 42%
of the country’s energy needs by 2020
[3]. The contribution of solar energy in this strategy will
be 14%. More importantly, the Moroccan Solar Plan aims at establishing large-scale solar power
plants in five different locations throughout the country, namely Laayoune, Ain Beni Mathar,
Tarfaya, Boujdour, and Ouarzazate. Also, Morocco has started liberalizing the electricity market
through allowing private investment in electricity generation. In fact, the state-owned utility
Office National de l’Electricité
(ONE), which used to control the whole electricity market, is
now responsible for distribution and transmission only. Combining the large-scale solar energy
projects being developed with medium-scale (above 10MW but not exceeding 100 MW) solar