Although the solar industry has recently seen record-setting gains in efficiency and deployment, we are only beginning to understand the mechanisms that impact PV array performance over the life-time of the installation. It is a purpose of this course to provide analysis tools to better understand why solar energy systems work and why they don't. This course will cover the basics of solar cell, module and array operation. We will develop electrical and thermal models that can be used to predict the performance of an array and assess the impact due to enviromental variables. We will use the models to examine the effects of partial shading and the phenomena of "hot-spots". Degradation mechanims will be discusses and current research efforts to diagnose problems will be presented. Efforts to optimize solar array performance will also be addressed. A significant component of this course will be experimental. We have designed a number of experiments that will enable students to examine, model, and analyze solar data from our experimental array in real-time. At the completion of the course, the student will have a broad understanding of the role of solar in the current US energy market as well as the ability to model and predict the power of large-scale solar arrays at various granularities in space and time. Given our location in Silicon Valley, we are fortunate to have a number of solar start-ups in the area. Several guest lecturers will present the latest in solar technology and discuss the future direction of renewables.
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of electric circuits at the level of 18-220 and differential equations is required. You will also be expected to program in Matlab and C.