EME 811
Solar Thermal Energy for Utilities and Industry

1.0 Introduction

I'd put my money on the Sun and Solar Energy, what a source of Power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out, before we tackle that.

— Thomas Edison, 1931.

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy. If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.

— George Porter, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, 1967.

An artist's rendering of Archimedes' Death Ray, (c. 214-212 BC)
Figure 1.1: An artist's rendering of Archimedes' Death Ray, (c. 214-212 BC).

People have been leveraging solar thermal energy for millennia. The history of the use of solar energy for heating buildings (c. 4000 BC), creating fire (c. 1000 BC), and driving industrial processes (c. 1800 AD) has been well documented by archeologists and historians. The sun comes up every day (with the exception of locations that are north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Polar Circle where the sun never rises above the horizon in the depths of winter). It is our most reliable source of energy and is the source of most other forms of energy on our planet. While often characterized as intermittent, with intermittence deriving from meteorology, atmospheric physics, and diurnal and seasonal patterns, barring any catastrophic event such as a meteor impact on Earth or the expiration of the sun, the sun is always shining somewhere, will shine again everywhere, and is the primary driver behind the thermal behavior of our environment.

Lesson Objectives

At the successful completion of Lesson 1, students should be able to:

  • Identify solar temporal relationships;
  • Describe solar geometric relationships;
  • Recall key aspects impacting available solar radiation.

What is due for Lesson 1?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. Brief directions for the lesson assignments are given in the table below, and you can find more details on respective pages of this lesson.

Tasks Assignment Details Access/Directions

(Please recall that "D&B" stands for the Duffie and Beckman textbook)

  • D&B Chapter 1 - sections 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8, 1.9 (25 pages)
  • D&B Chapter 2 - sections 2.1, 2.5, 2.6, 2.10, and 2.14 (18 pages)
  • "Ivanpah-NYTimes-Feb2014.pdf" (4 pages)
    (for Assignment 2)
  • D&B all of Chapters 1 and 2
Registered students can use the following link to access the online textbook through the University Library.

Registered students can access the supplementary reading in the Lesson 1 Module in Canvas.
Quiz Take the Lesson 1 Reading Quiz. Access the quiz in the Lesson 1 Module in Canvas
Assignment  1 page essay on the scope of the course  Specific directions for the assignment are provided on the Assignment page of this lesson and in Canvas.
Discussion Article review Post your reflection in Lesson 1 DIscussion in Canvas.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions and Answers discussion forum, located under the Modules tab in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum regularly will do my best to respond. While you are on the forum, please feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out a classmate.