Lean Approach to Production Planning for Large Solar Photovoltaic Installation

Open Access
Wang, Yishu
Graduate Program:
Architectural Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 16, 2014
Committee Members:
  • David R Riley Ii, Thesis Advisor
  • Lean
  • Production
  • Solar
  • Construction
  • Management
Few studies in the field of construction management examine factors affecting large-scale photovoltaic (PV) installation costs. Recently, National Renewable Energy Lab discovered that non-module hardware and non-hardware costs, which mainly take place during the installation phase, account for an increasing percentage of large-scale solar PV project price in the United States. This study conducted interviews with solar PV practitioners representing various business sectors, and performed a time and motion study on large-scale projects to identify key actors that affect PV installation costs. This data enabled the identification and assessment of key factors such as crew sizing, tool/equipment selection, prefabrication and PV module size, which contributed to the design of an analytical tool for the planning of large-scale solar PV projects. 3D computer simulation tools embedded with schedule data (4D simulation tools) are proposed to assist communication and visualization of plans and planning decisions. The analytical tool supports the evaluation of project specific variables which need to be reconciled in the planning process. Lean theory was used in several simulations to test where waste occurs, (such area as material delivery, travel on site, etc.). Techniques used in Lean Production in the AEC Industry and Short Interval Production Schedule are presented to demonstrate the opportunity in optimization of the installation procedure of large-scale PV projects through selection of various module dimensions. An example of application of the analytical tool is presented in which the impact of using large-format PV modules is compared with using normal-sized PV modules during on-site installation of a large-scale PV system. The results of this research make contributions in the field of PV design and construction planning that can be built upon to support continued efforts to address the need to reduce the capital costs of PV electricity generation.