Analysis Software Increases Training of Practitioners

The Canadian government has trained more than 500 people on the use of a software package that can perform a pre-feasibility analysis on renewable energy installations.

OTTAWA, Ontario, CA, 2001-10-05 [] Eighteen thousand people have downloaded the RETScreen program since it was offered on the internet in May 1998, including 5,000 from Canada and 3,000 from the United States. The software provides cost data and financial analysis for projects that are considering the use of wind turbines, solar PV panels, solar thermal water or air heating systems, earth energy heat pumps, small hydro turbines, biomass furnaces, or passive solar heating. The software was developed by Natural Resources Canada for use at remote communities in Canada, but Greg Leng says the program has expanded to include satellite weather data from NASA that allows the analysis to be conducted for any location on earth. Fifteen universities around the world use the program as a teaching tool at the graduate level, and the World Bank models all its proposals on the software. Another partner is the United Nations Environmental Programme. More than 500 people have attended training workshops in the past seven months to learn how to use RETScreen, explains Leng, and future updates will include additional technology modules to increase the global appeal of the software. All material can be downloaded for free from the internet. The International Energy Agency predicts that an investment of US$9 trillion will be required by 2045 to increase the number of generating facilities for electricity, he explains, with solar PV, wind and fuel cells representing the majority of that cost. Leng developed the software to decrease the cost of initial feasibility studies, as well as to increase the accuracy in order to overcome some of the traditional barriers to the use of renewable energy. The accuracy of the program has been validated to within 7 percent of final cost, and the program has been used to drop the cost of a wind turbine installation from $5,000 to less than $1,000. The surface meteorology and solar energy data set from NASA allows a grid of 100 by 100 kilometres, anywhere in the world, to be selected for analysis. The weather data are automatically loaded into the MS Excel spreadsheet, and the software allows the same information to calculate the installation costs and financial analysis for any of the eight technologies. The latest versions of the modules include a Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Analysis worksheet, developed with UNEP, that allows users to calculate the estimated GHG emissions avoided for the proposed project.
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