Modeling photovoltaic solar farm site suitability using a multi-criteria evaluation in Southern, Ontario, Canada
thesisposted on 2021-05-24, 17:57 authored by Scott Mackey
Canada’s solar energy industry has seen significant growth in recent years. More specifically, southern Ontario, Canada’s most densely populated region, hosts over 100 industrial-scale solar farms. These large arrays of interconnected solar panels convert incoming global horizontal irradiance into electricity. This study is a location-based analysis investigating the suitability of southern Ontario’s lands for hosting solar farms. The objectives are: (1) determine the most applicable variables and methods that are replicable in the southern Ontario region; (2) identify and analyze the amount and location of suitable areas; and (3) understand and explain any discrepancies between the locations of existing solar farm power plants and optimal locations. This research produces a land suitability model of southern Ontario’s solar farm capacity. It utilizes an analytical hierarchy process, a type of multi-criteria evaluation, in order to identify criteria, classify and weigh variables, and overlay inputs. The data employed are incoming solar radiation, cloud cover, land use, hydro transmission lines, major road networks, slope, and cultural areas. The results suggest much of the northern portions of southern Ontario are not well adapted for hosting solar farms, while large parts of southwest and west-central are very suitable or mostly suitable. In particular, a west-central area remains untapped for solar farming, despite being highly suitable. These results are then compared to the approximate locations of existing solar farms, and discrepancies are discussed.