Danielle Thomas

Major and Classification

Civil Engineering

Faculty Mentor

Kelly Sanders, Ph.D., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Viterbi School of Engineering

Research Gateway Project

“Assessing the Environmental and Cost Tradeoffs of Solar Panels at the University of Southern California”

Project Abstract

This project analyzes the energy generation potential, as well as the economic and environmental tradeoffs of installing solar photovoltaics (PV) on the University Park Campus (UPC) at the University of Southern California (USC). Solar is an attractive source of electricity because it emits no greenhouse gases during operation, and its energy is sourced from the sun, which is a renewable resource. The energy generation potential at UPC was calculated based on modeling available rooftop space in order to calculate prospective system capacity. After assessing the installation costs and the monetary value of the potential solar energy generation, the economic analysis concluded that investing in solar PV panels would be cost-effective. Additionally, the environmental gains of generating electricity from a PV system, instead of purchasing it from the power grid, resulted in significant decreases in the carbon footprint of UPC. The results of this work serve as a model to evaluate the possible deployment of solar systems on various university campuses, communities, or any medium-sized entity.