In this paper we study and compare the environmental efficiency of 118 photovoltaic (PV) plants in China. Drawing on the nonparametric data envelopment analysis (DEA) method, our study takes the initiative to take the insolation, annual sunshine duration, and covering area as input variables into account, as well as the installed capacity, annual electricity generation, CO2 emission reduction, and coal saving as output variables, to provide a unified measure of environmental efficiency of PV plants in China. We find widespread inefficiencies in roughly 95% of the PV plants, and the performance of different economic zones and types of PV plants are quite different. Specifically, those PV plants in eastern China are the least satisfying performers among three different economic zones. The surprising result indicates that eastern China has room for improvement by overcoming the inefficiencies caused by serious aerosol pollution and the high urbanization rate. We also find rooftop PV plants have the highest efficiencies among the four types of PV plants due to very little power loss. However, complementary PV plants have the lowest efficiencies most likely because of high operating temperatures during the process of power generation.
More information: https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072551 (registering DOI)