MECH 820: Solar Photovoltaic Materials, Cells and Systems Engineering[edit | edit source]

(Spring 2010)

Instructor: User:J.M.Pearce

Calendar Description: MECH 820 Solar Photovoltaic Materials, Cells and Systems Engineering[edit | edit source]

This course provides a graduate level introduction to solar photovoltaics: the materials science behind the technology, device physics and practical systems engineering applications. One third of this course will be dedicated to semiconductor materials for photovoltaics, including effects of microstructure, band theory, opto-electronics, and charge transport. One third will be dedicated to solar photovoltaic cell device physics: semiconductor junctions, principles of operation, structures, fabrication, and manufacturing of conventional, thin film, and “3rd generation” solar cells. The last third will be dedicated to photovoltaic systems engineering: the solar resource, power conditioning equipment and system integration techniques, mechanical elements (frames, supports, orientation mechanisms, and tracking), energy storage, residential grid-connected photovoltaic systems including engineering economics and government incentives. Three term-hours, lectures.

The course is meant for graduate students in Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Engineering Physics, while graduate students in other areas of engineering, physics and other physical sciences with a strong interest in this topic are also welcomed.

Required Course Material[edit | edit source]

Handouts in class, on-line reading, and emailed pdfs. See hyperlinks on schedule.

Course Organization[edit | edit source]

This course will be run as an intense seminar meeting as a group. Students will be expected to read the course material before class and actively participate in discussions. Each student will be responsible for a presentation on their topic in front of the group at the end of the semester.

Course Marking[edit | edit source]

The final grade will be made up of three components:

  1. Individual Solar Photovoltaic Open Lectures (SPVOL) Update – 10% -due on day one of PV Systems Module
  1. Group Project – Engineering PV Systems for local rooftops 20% - due at end of Advanced PV Topics Module.
  1. Final Project (Oral presentations 20% and open tutorial 50%) - Oral presentations due following course calendar, written presentations due June 14th.

Policy on Academic Dishonesty[edit | edit source]

Plagiarism: (archive)

Course Schedule[edit | edit source]

Please Note: Readings will be updated periodically before we get to the module. May 3 Spring Term and Spring-Summer session classes begin, May 24 Victoria Day (classes will not be held)

June 14 Spring Term classes end

PV Materials Module[edit | edit source]

Background: PV- Path to a Sustainable Future
  1. Introduction to Materials and Crystal Structure Principles of Semiconductor Devices (POSD) Chap 2.2
  2. Band Theory and Semiconductors POSD Chap.2.3
  3. Silicon c-Si, p-Si and “thin film” silicon Si Structure and Growth (dead link)
  4. Thin Film PV Materials – a-Si:H, CdTe, CIGS, CIS, and InGaN The case for thin film PV, Thin Film Review
  5. Polymers, Quantum Dots, Photosynthesis, and NASA materials Polymer based PV, Quantum DOT PV, Artificial Photosynthesis Basic Research Needs for Solar Energy Utilization

PV Device Module[edit | edit source]

Background: PVCD Chap 4

Recommended Books



  1. Doping and P/N Junctions PVCD Chap. 5, 6,POSD 4.2-4.6
  2. P-I-N, N-I-P, Schottky Junctions POSD 4.7, POSD 3.1-3.7
  3. Dye-sensitized PV Cells Dye-sensitized solar cells
  4. PV Devices and Engineering limitations -- plan for project 2.(reading emailed)
  5. Multi-junction solar cells [Dirk]

PV Systems Module[edit | edit source]

Background: Category:Photovoltaics

Recommended Books:

  • Steven J. Strong and William G. Scheller, The Solar Electric House: Energy for the Environmentally- Responsive, Energy-Independent Home, by Chelsea Green Pub Co; 2nd edition, 1994. (initial design and contacting a certified installer)
  • Richard J. Komp, and John Perlin, Practical Photovoltaics: Electricity from Solar Cells, Aatec Pub., 3.1 edition, 2002. (A layman’s treatment).
  • Roger Messenger and Jerry Ventre, Photovoltaic Systems Engineering, CRC Press, 1999. (Comprehensive specialized engineering of PV systems).
  • Photovoltaics: Design & Installation Manual by SEI Solar Energy International, 2004.


  1. The Solar Resource and PV Modeling Software Review [Ayon] - PV CDROM Chap 2,8,Solar_photovoltaic_software, RETScreen Project 1 due
  2. SPVOL - Engineering I (Rob) – Inverters and BOS Sandia PV design spreadsheets 1-5, 6-9,AC/DC
  3. SPVOL – Engineering II (Dirk) – BIPV, PV/T and new applications PVT Review 2009

Advanced Topic Module – Case Study 5MW Multi-system Design[edit | edit source]

  1. Group Meeting to discuss project #2 - See email for Photovoltaic Engineering Report
  2. Solar resource measurement for PV applications [Rob]
  3. Exergy [Mike]
  4. Inverters [Jim]
  5. PV Engineering Report Due

Project 1: Update Solar Photovoltaic Open Lecture[edit | edit source]

10% -Due on day one of PV Systems Module.

This is a series of five fully annotated Power Point presentations created for the solar energy community to assist in the dissemination of information about solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.

  • The first presentation "Solar Photovoltaic Physics" Solar1 (ppt), which is the most technical, covers the science behind PV.
  • The second presentation "Engineering Photovoltaic Systems" Solar2 (ppt) is about the basic engineering of photovoltaic systems.
  • The third presentation Solar3 (ppt) is meant to underscore the flexibility of solar photovoltaic modules to provide clean renewable energy for a number of applications.
  • The fourth presentation "Economics of Photovoltaic Systems" Solar4 (ppt) discusses the economic impacts of solar photovoltaic cells – from the cost to install a system to their effects on energy related employment and the national economy.
  • The fifth presentation "Environmental and Social Impact of Solar Photovoltaics", Solar5 (ppt) covers the environmental impacts of solar photovoltaic cells and compares them to some of the impacts from conventional fossil-fuel derived energy.

Step 1. Go to Appropedia and download your chosen lecture here : Solar_Photovoltaic_Open_Lectures

Step 2. Go through the lecture – reading the notes page at each slide. Look for time sensitive or outdated information.

Step 3. Update the information available and or add up to 5 slides using notes from class, online materials, peer reviewed literature, class handouts, etc. For each slide fully annotate what would be said during a talk with the presentation. If you are pulling in outside information make sure to cite it. If you add a picture or graph it MUST be and open source image, graph, etc. U.S. government materials are open source – but most academic literature is not. You may need to recreate a graph, diagram, CAD, etc.

Step 4. Email them directly to Dr. Pearce along with a list of changes Upload your new presentation to Appropedia in BOTH ppt and odp (Open Office format). When uploading the new ppt – make clear notes on the document page saying what you updated and that all information is open source. Add the updated link to the odp file – and put a little “new” tag on the page to attract attention.

Project 2: Group Project Engineering PV Systems[edit | edit source]

Engineering PV Systems for local rooftops 20% - due at end of Advanced PV Topics Module.

Step 1. Form into groups of five and assign sub-tasks to group members

  1. Structural Engineering/Reduced PSF BOS
  2. Ontario Content Availability - contacting and getting spec sheets (Mike)
  3. PV System Modeling
  4. Inverter optimization
  5. FIT Economics (Dirk)

Step 2. Read the assigned engineering analysis report for PV Systems in Ontario. This is a 'high level' document that did not take into account any innovations in the PV industry in the last 10 years and used rules of thumb for all calculations.

Step 3. Perform a more in-depth analysis using the same scope and parameters used in the example report.

  1. Review available Reduced PSF BOS components and recreate the structural engineering study given in the example for newer technologies (e.g. Solyndra, PV Laminates, Enclosed racking, polymer racking)
  2. Review the OPA guidelines on FIT Ontario content percentages. Break these down into class and find all available Ontario manufacturing of PV modules and inverters, which will be applicable for 2011. Interview appropriate national and provincial solar organizations and companies create table for what companies will meet the standards. Where possible obtain unofficial estimates.
  3. Using energy models devised by the Queen's Applied Sustainability Research Group – develop 5 case study examples for the energy output for 'rationally' designed PV systems for the rooftops outlined in the example study. Critically review the use of NASA data vs measured data in the Queen's Solar Calorimetry Laboratory. Compare the effect of packing factor on shading losses and energy performance. Provide a yearly energy output for each system to group member number 4.
  4. Complete the electrical design of the system
  5. Using the SWITCH FIT spreadsheet as a base– devise realistic economic performance projections from the results of the work of group members 1, 2, and 3. Interview appropriate campus staff to get realistic assumptions for taxes, insurance, labor costs, equity, etc.

Step 4. Compile a short report outlining the deficiencies of the example engineering report and the corrections you recommend.

Project 3: Final Advanced PV Topic Project[edit | edit source]

(Oral presentations 20% and open tutorial 50%) - Oral presentations due following course calendar, written presentations due June 14th.

Choose a topic related to photovoltaics and prepare an in-depth graduate-level open source tutorial and 45 minute presentation on the topic. Fully explore the topic, link to required background information, create your own images, graphs, figures to explain the topic. Back up theoretical work with simulations, experiments or the peer-reviewed literature.

Depending upon your choice of topic upload your tutorial on either or or some other appropriate venue. Email your presentation to

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License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 9 pages link here
Aliases MECH820 Solar Photovoltaic Materials, Cells and Systems Engineering
Impact 700 page views
Created April 27, 2010 by Joshua M. Pearce
Modified July 6, 2022 by Kathy Nativi
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