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Effective Low-budget Approach to Teaching Photovoltaic Systems to Electrical Engineering Technology Students at Community Colleges

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Projects in Alternative Energy: Wind and Solar

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.504.1 - 25.504.11



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Paper Authors


Elena V. Brewer Erie Community College

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Elena V. Brewer is an instructor of Electrical Engineering Technology at Erie Community College. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the State University of New York, Buffalo. Her teaching interests include photovoltaic systems, DC/AC circuit analysis, digital electronics, PLCs, electrical motors and controls, and college and technical physics.

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Anthony P. Dalessio Erie Community College

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Anthony P. Dalessio is an Assistant Professor of electrical engineering technology at Erie Community College. He earned a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His teaching interests include analog and digital electronics, wireless communications, and renewable energy.

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Effective Low-Budget Approach to Teaching Photovoltaic Systems to Electrical Engineering Technology Students at Community CollegesAbstractIn the last several years, substantial interest was generated towards introducing photovoltaiccourses into various college/university programs due to rapid development of photovoltaicindustry. However, most courses and programs being introduced target either engineeringstudents or PV installers. Effective introduction of photovoltaic systems to EET studentsenrolled in two-year programs at community college requires a different approach that wouldhave to meet the challenge of balancing the following required competencies: sufficienttheoretical background in PV modules operation and battery operation; overview of electronicsin charge controllers, inverters and other components, necessary for understanding their behaviorunder various weather conditions; ability to perform load analysis, site survey, and shadinganalysis; ability to perform sizing analysis of modules, inverters, charge controllers and BOScomponents to complete the PV system design in accordance with NEC; familiarization withwind load and other structural analysis techniques; ability to conduct economic analysis of thePV system. Other criteria that need to be balanced in PV course and corresponding laboratoryare incorporation of hands-on approach in lecture and lab, budgetary constraints for thedevelopment of the lab component of the course, exposure of students to a sufficient assortmentof PV technologies, portability of PV equipment, and ability to run the laboratory activitiesindoors when a controlled solar source is required as well as when weather conditions are notconducive to the PV experiment. The PV Systems course developed at our institutionincorporates all abovementioned requirements.The successful methodology for lecture component of the course includes variety of hands-onhomework assignments such as: load analysis using Kill-A-Watt meters; shading analysis of theactual location and production of industry-standard shading report with Solar Pathfinder;analysis of available irradiance using published tables and online resources such as PV Wattscalculator; work with GIS maps depicting landscape slopes or temperature levels; sizing ofinverters, wires, disconnects, OCPD and other components of PV System according to NECguidelines; and performing economic analysis of the PV system. Furthermore, student progressis assessed based on the mixture of homework assignments, tests and final group design project.The final project involves application of all learned steps and techniques to design a viable PVSystem in a teamwork environment, production of project report, and preparation of a 15-20minute PowerPoint presentation.The laboratory component of the course was designed using an innovative approach. The labexperiments are designed using substantial assortment of small inexpensive portable 5-6W solarmodules, inverters (12V and 24V pure sine, PWM, modified square wave), charge controllers(12V and 24V), loads (AC/DC lights, AC/DC water pumps, radios), solar irradiance sensors, andtemperature sensors. Furthermore, the MH/HPS light sources are used as controlled lightsources for indoor experiments that must use controlled level of irradiance or as back-up lightsources for conducting experiments indoors due to poor weather conditions.  

Brewer, E. V., & Dalessio, A. P. (2012, June), Effective Low-budget Approach to Teaching Photovoltaic Systems to Electrical Engineering Technology Students at Community Colleges Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21262

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