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Photovoltaic Power Systems An Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Senior Elective Course

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.321.1 - 2.321.5



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Paper Authors

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Roger A. Messenger

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3233

Photovoltaic Power Systems An Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Senior Elective Course

Roger A. Messenger Florida Atlantic University


A 3-credit, undergraduate elective course in photovoltaic power systems was developed and taught during the spring, 1995, semester. A revised version was then offered during summer, 1996, and the third offering was during spring, 1997. The objective was to create a course which would stimulate the interest of electrical engineering students in photovoltaic power production, while concurrently challenging them to explore alternate solutions to an assortment of design problems with an emphasis on computer use. Since organizations such as the Florida Solar Energy Center1 offer courses in PV system design at the turnkey/technician level, and since it is possible to purchase a variety of turnkey systems, the challenge was to put enough “meat” into the course to be able to justify it as a senior electrical engineering elective course. The key was to create a course in which students would learn enough engineering principles to enable them to apply discretion in system design.


A modified top-down approach was used in the progression of the course. Sun parameters were discussed for the first two weeks, followed by three weeks of performance characteristics of PV system components. In order to lay the final groundwork for system design, life cycle costing was discussed next. With the design tools in place, six weeks were spent on design of a wide variety of systems. The remainder of the course covered environmental effects of electrical generation technologies and the physics of various PV technologies, with an emphasis on PV cell design considerations for maximization of PV cell performance.

Markvart2 presents a good discussion of sun parameters. After the first lecture, which presents a summary of present global energy use, sources and challenges, such as reducing CO2 production, attention is turned to quantifying the observation that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west at different times on different days at different latitudes. Black body radiation is discussed and why a 6800 K blackbody should make 1367 watts/m2 available at a distance of 93 million miles is assigned as a computational problem. Air mass absorption and dispersion effects are discussed as formulas for direct, diffuse and reflected components of sunlight are presented. At the end of this section, students have an appreciation that someone has spent a lot of time developing a set of involved formulas based on solid geometry and a significant amount of empirical data, and have a more quantitative feeling for the amount and composition of sunlight available at various locations during various times of the year.

Messenger, R. A. (1997, June), Photovoltaic Power Systems An Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Senior Elective Course Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6731

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