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Sunny Cyprus provides power for our Campus!

The Academic History of METU NCC Solar Power Plant

Universities offer an ideal setting for exploring sustainability issues. First, universities themselves are among the major consumers. Second, faculty members and students, who have the qualifications needed to conduct research and to put the data derived from studies into practice, are part of university communities. Third, next generation of leaders and practitioners are educated at universities. Lastly, universities have the potential to lead the public to support a particular agenda and they serve as a role model for other institutions.

Given the advantages a university campus offers, the photovoltaic (PV) power plant installed at Middle East Technical University Northern Cyprus Campus (METU NCC) goes beyond just being a sustainable energy plant. Looking ahead, it can be the source of many significant innovations. 

METU: A natural-born pioneer

METU has always demonstrated an exceptional sensitivity to the environment and nature. This sensitivity is an inherent quality of its community. METU, in this regard, has a prestigious status among all other Turkish universities. In addition, METU was the first in Turkey to establish a "campus university". Having stayed true to its history, METU puts a lot of effort into being a "Sustainable Campus", which aims to reach another first. In fact, it is one of the goals included in the mission of the University.

Research reveals high solar resources in Cyprus

There has been an increasing interest in renewable energy sources due to the depletion of fossil fuels and, more importantly, as a precautionary measure to reduce the effects of global warming, which is caused primarily by utilization of fossil fuels. This resulted in more activities of research and development (R&D) on renewable energy technologies worldwide. Consequently, efficiency of the renewable energy systems increased and a significant decline in costs was observed. Since it was founded, METU NCC has taken on responsibility to lead the community in which it sits in dealing with environmental issues. The Campus has recently extended its scope to include renewable energy sources and, thus, has taken another important step to create a sustainable campus.
Within the current scope of the Campus, solar radiation measurements have been made since 2010 in order to quantify the potential of solar energy around the Campus. Similarly, the wind speed and direction has been measured since 2013. The analysis of the data gathered indicates that Cyprus has a massive potential of solar energy. The Island receives the second highest amount of solar radiation in Europe, the highest being the south part of Spain. Thus, investment in solar technologies in Cyprus is becoming increasingly attractive.

Based on this result, technical and economic feasibility studies were conducted in order to identify the technology required for a solar power project. After the feasibility study has been completed, the capacity for the proposed plant was determined and the most viable model was chosen: a solar power plant with photovoltaic (PV) cells which directly convert solar energy into electricity. Within the period of time covering the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, the necessary steps were initiated to install a PV power plant of 1 MW capacity, and the Campus was granted a license for this capacity.
Tender preparations gained momentum in the Spring of 2015. With the intention of putting energy production at the forefront of the project, firms interested in participating in the tender for the plant were encouraged to submit their original plant designs, breaking with tradition. Similarly, bids were evaluated through competitive bidding. Each firm was also asked to submit an annual energy production estimation based on their proposed designs. The firms' production estimations were tested and confirmed at the tendering stage through simulations of the proposed designs. In September 2015, the Campus ended its tender offer period and the designated land was handed over to the consortium that won the tender for installation of the PV power plant.
All construction and installation works were completed between September 2015 and February 2016. The power plant was granted permission in February 2016 to be connected to the grid, and the Campus started testing phase. The energy produced during the testing phase was compared with the estimated energy production gained through simulations using measured solar radiation and temperature. The plant, which was granted temporary approval in March 2016 after the testing phase, will be operated by the contractor consortium for two years, in accordance with the contract signed by the parties. During this period, the researchers in charge will oversee whether the energy targets set at the tendering stage are being met. In the light of the experience gained, training will be provided to relevant individuals and institutions, which in turn will add value to the project.

The project benefits students, the Campus and Cyprus

The METU NCC PV Power Plant has distinctive contributions to make to academic and social domains, as well as producing a significant amount of the University's total electrical energy needs at the Campus. In the academic domain, for example, it is an excellent open-air laboratory attracting students and researchers, along with the solar measurement station. It will allow them to apply classroom-based knowledge in practice, to observe the results, and compare the data obtained with the estimated values. The PV power plant will also provide significant data, which can facilitate testing and development of solar energy systems alike. In social domain, the data obtained by the project, and benefits of the project to people and the environment, will be made available to local authorities and to the wider society to raise awareness in the field of renewable energy. Through activities organized by the METU NCC student associations, a higher, more effective level of awareness can be achieved gradually. In the long term, it is possible to extend the existing energy network to accommodate new solar power plants on the Island, to test different types of PV modules or other renewable energy systems, in so far as the electricity infrastructure on the Island allows.

Technical Information of the PV Power Plant

1000 kW  Total installed capacity
16.500 m2 Total land area
1.640.000 kWh Estimated annual energy production
%85 Estimated annual performance ratioı
%20  Fraction of the annual energy requirement of the campus met by the plant
%40  Fraction of the annual average energy requirement of the campus during sunshine hours met by the plant
4000  Number of PV modules (capacity: 250 W, brand: Axitech, reference efficiency: 15.37%)
40  Number of inverters (capacity: 25 kW, brand: SMA)
30 derece Tilt angle of the modules with respect to the ground
70 ton Mass of the galvanized steel mounting system
6,5-7 yıl Estimated payback period
   

PV Power Plant with Numbers

  • The generated energy can meet the average electrical energy requirement of 540 houses with 4-person occupancy.
  • The land area occupied by the plant is nearly two football fields.
  • The annual energy generation will avoid about 1,000,000 kg of carbon dioxide emission. There would be a need for about 52,700 mature trees to absorb this amount of carbon dioxide.