AE 868
Commercial Solar Electric Systems




Did you complete the Course Orientation? Before you begin this course, make sure you have completed the Course Orientation (see the Orientation menu). You'll need to read over this material carefully and then successfully complete a quiz on it in Canvas.

Energy is one of the hot topics today. The industry trend is moving toward switching from traditional fossil fuel sources to renewable sources that are cleaner and becoming more competitive in the global market. If you intend to build a coal plant to generate electricity, you would struggle to find the land, capital funds, and expertise and patience to build it. In contrast, electricity from solar is available at different scales with multiple incentives and simple and fast implementation processes.


We will begin each lesson with a scenario that will place you in a real-world situation. These scenarios will put you in situations where you have to analyze, evaluate, and make decisions when it comes to designing a solar system. We have made sure that these scenarios cover almost all cases you may encounter in real-world solar roles. To take advantage of them, try to immerse yourself in the environment of each scenario.

Lesson 1 Scenario

You work for an electric utility company that is adding a new department for solar energy. During a general meeting, it as announced that you have been chosen to lead that department. Fortunately, you happened to come across the AE 868 Commercial Solar Electric Systems course as part of the Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems program portfolio at the Penn State World Campus, where you can learn all about the solar "ins and outs."

Your first assignment with the department is to study the solar energy market and see opportunities for different solar energy conversion systems (SECS) for electricity generation in order to choose the most suitable technology to invest in. Then you will study that specific technology's market sectors to understand where to tap into the solar industry and who are the main players. Furthermore, you can find information on basic terminologies and system types and components to understand what solar systems consist of and what components are needed.

This lesson will take you through a journey (in both time and space domains) to learn what you need in order to grasp main topics in the solar industry so that you can lead the solar department with confidence. Furthermore, you may be interested in starting your own solar business. Lesson 1 is the right place to learn the basics.

Learning Outcomes

At the successful completion of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Recognize main types of SECS and their applications for electricity generation including PV, CPV and STE/CSP.
  • Identify PV market indicators and main factors driving the development of the PV technology.
  • Categorize solar PV system as residential, non-residential and utility scale grid-tied PV systems and their share in the PV market.
  • Discuss PV system configurations (grid-connected, stand-alone, bimodal, and hybrid) and their components and various types of energy sources that can be coupled with PV systems.
  • Explain the roles of various segments of the PV industry and how they interact with one another.

What is due for Lesson 1?

Lesson 1 will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found within this lesson and/or in Canvas.

Complete the following Lesson Assignments:


If you have lesson specific questions, please feel free to post to the Lesson 1 Questions discussion forum in Canvas. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help a classmate with a question. If you have questions about the overall course or wish to share and discuss any "extra" course related commentary (interesting articles, etc.), please feel free to post to the General Questions and Discussion forum.