ECE 59500 - Fundamentals of Photovoltaics: A Cell to System Perspective


This course runs the last five weeks of the semester and is available through edX.

Course Details

Lecture Hours: 3 Credits: 1

This is an experiential learning course.

Counts as:

  • EE Elective
  • CMPE Special Content Elective

Experimental Course Offered:

Spring 2020


ECE 30500 or ECE 60600 or ECE 59500 Semiconductor Fundamentals

Catalog Description:

This course is designed for students from all disciplines in engineering and science seeking to learn about how solar cells function, how they are connected into modules, how modules are assembled into panels, and how panels are fielded in solar farms. The basics of solar farms are covered as well as the reliability of solar cells. The course is taught at the advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate student level.

Required Text(s):

  1. Physics of Solar Cells: An Atoms-to-Farm Perspective , Alam, M. A.

Recommended Text(s):

  1. Photovoltaics Fundamentals, Technology, and Practice , Mertens, Konrad , Wiley , 2018 , ISBN No. 978-1119401049
  2. Semiconductor Device Fundamentals , 2nd Edition , Pierret, Robert F. , Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. , 1996 , ISBN No. 0-201-54393-1
  3. Solar Cells: Operating Principles, Technology and System Applications , Green, Martin A. , Prentice Hall , 1986 , ISBN No. 13: 978-0138222703

Learning Outcomes:

A student who successfully fulfills the course requirements will have demonstrated an understanding of:
  1. the operation of solar cells and of how solar cells are interconnected in panels. [None]
  2. estimating the maximum efficiency of ideal and nonideal solar cells. [None]
  3. the key reliability issues for photovoltaic systems. [None]
  4. estimating the cost and performance of grid-connected and stand along PV systems. [None]

Lecture Outline:

Unit 1 Overview: Sun, earth, and the solar cell
Unit 2 Review of semiconductor fundamentals; The NP diode; Solar cell fundamentals and electrical and optical solar cell design principles; The PERL/PERC cells; Heterojunction solar cells; Solar cell manufacturing; Tandem solar cells; The NIP diode and thin-film solar cells; Electrical characterization of solar cells; Compact models; The Shockley-Queisser limit and triangle
Unit 3 Electrical grid in thin-film and solar modules (c-Si); PV reliability (Shadow, soiling) in potential induced degradation, corrosion and solder-bond failure, and qualification tests and module characterization
Unit 4 Introduction to a grid integrated and stand-alone PV systems; Installation of stand-alone modules; Design principles for a solar farm: Monofacial and Vertical bifacial; New farm topologies: Agro-PV, Building-integrated PV; Energy storage strategies for solar energy; How to design a cost effective solar farm; Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE): Key elements; Learning curves and LCOE

Engineering Design Content:

  • Establishment of Objectives and Criteria
  • Synthesis
  • Analysis

Engineering Design Consideration(s):

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health/Safety
  • Social
  • Cultural
  • Global