Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems
Spring 2016
Catalog Data: 

ECE 414A -- Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems (3 units)

Description: This course is intended to provide an introduction to the theory and operation of different types of photovoltaic devices; the characteristics of solar illumination; and the advantages and characteristics of concentrating and light management optics. The physical limits on photovoltaic cell performance and practical device operation will be analyzed. The main device emphasis will focus on different types of silicon photovoltaics including crystalline, amorphous, multi-crystalline, and thin film solar cells. An overview of other types of photovoltaic cells including multi-junction III-V, CdTe, CuInSe2, and organics will also be given. A discussion of radiometric and spectral properties of solar illumination will be presented and the impact of these factors on solar cell design will be explored. Techniques for increasing the performance of solar cells by light trapping, photon recycling, and anti-reflection coatings will be covered. The design and operation of imaging and non-imaging concentrators will also be discussed. Basic experiments related to PV cell measurements and the optical properties of concentrators are also planned for the course.

Grading:  Regular grades are awarded for this course: A B C D E

Also offered as OPTI 414A


Honsberg, Christiana and Stuart Bowden. PVCDROM. Solar Power Labs at ASU. Online. <>.

Course Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Compute basic solar irradiance characteristics.
  2. Understand circuit properties of  photovoltaic cells.
  3. Understand the physical parameters of solar cell operation.
  4. Understand the properties of solar cells and modules and the basic design properties affecting their performance.
  5. Design a photovoltaic system to meet specific requirements.
  6. Have a basic understanding of thin film and multi junction PV cells.
  7. Have a basic understanding of solar concentrators.
Course Topics: 
  • Properties of solar radiation relevant to solar energy conversion (3 lectures)
  • Radiometric parameters and calculation of solar illumination properties (5 lectures)
  • Thermal limits on solar conversion (2 lectures)
  • First order analysis of photovoltaic cells (5 lectures)
  • Physics of solar cells (10 lectures)
  • PV module design considerations (3 lectures)
  • PV System Design (7 lectures)
  • Thin film and multi junction cell properties (3 lectures)
  • Concentrator systems (2 lectures)
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 

Three, 50-minute lectures per week

Relationship to Student Outcomes: 

ECE 414A contributes directly to the following specific Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Outcomes of the ECE department:

  • an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering (High)
  • an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability and sustainability (Medium)
  • an ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems (Medium)
Prepared by: 
Dr. Raymond Kostuk
Prepared Date: 

University of Arizona College of Engineering