EME 811
Solar Thermal Energy for Utilities and Industry

EME 811 Solar Thermal Energy for Utilities and Industry Syllabus


This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."


Mark Fedkin's Picture
Mark Fedkin

Mark Fedkin: Teaching Faculty in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS) / Research Associate, Department of Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State Univeristy

  • E-mail: To contact me, please use the course e-mail system  -  the Inbox tab in Canvas 
  • Availability: I check e-mail daily and will try to get back as quickly as I can. My response may be slower on weekends.
  • Questions: You can post any questions related to class activities on "Questions and Answers" discussion board - I will do my best checking that board and replying daily

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Course Overview

This course teaches students the fundamentals of solar thermal energy systems, including system performance, concentrating versus non-concentrating systems, thermal fluids, markets for solar thermal energy, and applications in a range of relevant fields, such as district heating and cooling, industrial process heating, solar desalination, and materials processing. The course contains 12 lessons, which are taught over 15 weeks. The course activities include online class discussions, quizzes, individual work on assignments, peer feedback, and development of design proposal as final deliverable.

Prerequisites: EME 810 or by approval.

Course Objectives:

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • articulate the technical and economic fundamentals of solar thermal energy conversion useful to society and industry;
  • describe the spectrum of possible solar thermal technologies to assist industrial processing or power production;
  • distinguish the regional technical and economic obstacles to solar thermal deployment;
  • assess solar thermal technologies to identify the greatest solar utility for a client in a given locale.

What Will be Expected of You?

This course requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in the 8-12 hours each week is time to complete assigned reading, lesson activities, discussions, and work related to course project proposal. The good news is that you don't have to show up for class at a certain time! In the online class you can work on your own schedule to complete each assignment, quiz, or activity by the published deadline. I suggest that you intentionally schedule your time to log on the course during the week. Leaving an assignment to the last day before it is due may compromise the quality of work and diminish effective learning. 

Try to develop a habit to check the course discussions daily. That's where students and the instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. I encourage you to participate as frequently as possible and ask you class mates any possible questions, since this is your opportunity to learn from real people with real life experience, not just textbooks. Bringing in your personal professional experience into discussion is always welcome. While I try to check message boards almost every day, I will only respond when my input is necessary, and may not respond to every single message.

Success in this class depends significantly on the effort you put into your course project proposal. It is important to work on it throughout the course and keep track of milestones and deadlines.

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Required Course Materials

In order to access the online materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk.

Required Textbook:

  • John A. Duffie and William A. Beckman, " Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes,"  John Wiley and Sons, Inc., ISBN 978-0-470-87366-3 (2013).

The full text of the book is available online and can be accessed through the University Libraries System free of charge here: Text Book Link. Students may purchase a hard copy of the text if they wish. Further on we will refer to this text as "D&B" -  short for Duffie and Beckman.

Reading assignments on the course pages are tagged as Required, Supplemental, and Optional. Quizzes are based on the required readings, course projects will benefit greatly with content from the supplemental readings, and a broader understanding can be obtained with the optional readings.

Online lesson content

All other materials needed for this course are presented online through this website and in Canvas modules. In order to access the online materials for EME 811, you need to log in with your Penn State Access Account user ID and password.

Using the Library

Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student, you have a wealth of library resources available to you!

As a registered user of Penn State Libraries, you can...

  • search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text);
  • request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically;
  • borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep;
  • access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve;
  • talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and e-mail;
  • ...and much more!

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Weekly Assignments and Grading

The course contains weekly assignments, discussions, and reading quizzes. All those activities will be provided via Canvas (Penn State course management system), which will also list specific deadlines for submission. Students will use Canvas for submitting their assignments to the instructor and to receive feedback.

Breakdown of Course Grade
Assignment Percent of Grade
Quizzes 10%
Discussions 20%
Written assignments 20%
Course Project 50%

The course has 12 lessons to complete. Some of the weeks in the semester will be reserved for working on the final project proposal. There is no final exam in this course. 

Final letter grades will be based on the following percentages (percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student):

Letter Grades and Percentages
Grade Percent
A 92.5 - 100%
A- 89.5 - 92.4%
B+ 86.5 – 89.4%
B 82.5 – 86.4%
B- 79.5 – 82.4%
C+ 76.5 – 79.4%
C 69.5 – 76.4%
D 60.0 – 69.4%
F < 60.0%

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EME 811 Course Content and Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

As the schedule may change, please be sure to check it often! If you have a question about when something is due, ask your instructor!

Lesson 1 -  Overview of Solar Thermal Energy
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapters 1-2
Activities  Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 2 - Materials for Optocaloric Performance
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapters 3-4-5
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 3 - Flat Plate Collector Systems
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapters 5-6
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 4 - Concentrating Collector Systems
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapter 7
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 5 - Thermal Fluids
Reading NREL reports and published papers
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 6 - Performance of Solar Thermal Collectors and Systems
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapters 9-10
Activities Reading quiz, Written Assignment, Project topic discussion
Lesson 7 - Buildings and District Heating
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapters 8, 13, 14, 20 (selected pages)
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
 Lesson 8 - Solar Cooling
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapter 15
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 9 - Industrial Processing Requirements
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapter 16, published materials
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 10 - Solar Thermal Power Systems
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapter 17
Activities Reading quiz, Written Assignment, Critique for project pre-rpoposals
Lesson 11 - Solar Drying, Desalination, Chemistry Applications, and Material Processing
Reading Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook - Chapter 18
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment
Lesson 12 - Markets for Solar Thermal Energy Applications
Reading Introductions to applications chapters in Duffie and Beckman, 2013 Textbook; Solar Heat Worldwide 2014 Report
Activities Reading quiz, Discussion, Written Assignment, Preparation of final design proposal
Course Project 
Milestone 1 Project topic
Milestone 2 Pre-Proposal
Milestone 3 Peer Critique
Final Final Design Proposal

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Course Policies

Prerequisites and Concurrent Courses

If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who do not meet these prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct.


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette " for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Electronic Submissions

This course will require you to complete some handwritten assignments which must be submitted electronically. You should have access to a scanner, camera, or other device capable of capturing an 8.5" x 11" document with a minimum resolution of 150 pixels per inch (~2 megapixels or 1275 pixels x 1650 megapixels). Most modern cell phones have sufficient resolution to meet this requirement.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk.

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. 

According to Penn State policy  G-9: Academic Integrity, an academic integrity violation is “an intentional, unintentional, or attempted violation of course or assessment policies to gain an academic advantage or to advantage or disadvantage another student academically.” Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, you must complete all course work entirely on your own, using only sources that have been permitted by your instructor, and you may not assist other students with papers, quizzes, exams, or other assessments. If your instructor allows you to use ideas, images, or word phrases created by another person (e.g., from Course Hero or Chegg) or by generative technology, such as ChatGPT, you must identify their source. You may not submit false or fabricated information, use the same academic work for credit in multiple courses, or share instructional content. Students with questions about academic integrity should ask their instructor before submitting work.

Students facing allegations of academic misconduct may not drop/withdraw from the affected course unless they are cleared of wrongdoing (see G-9: Academic Integrity). Attempted drops will be prevented or reversed, and students will be expected to complete coursework and meet course deadlines. Students who are found responsible for academic integrity violations face academic outcomes, that can be severe, and put themselves at jeopardy for other outcomes which may include ineligibility for the Dean's List, pass/fail elections, and grade forgiveness. Students may also face consequences from their home/major program and/or The Schreyer Honors College.

Please also see Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Procedures, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Academic Integrity Training for Students.

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides the contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website.

To receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. See Student Disability Resources: Applying for Services. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances, or university-approved activities.  If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In EMS, inclusivity is one of our core values. We prioritize fostering a diverse and equitable community where each member knows they belong here and is inspired to succeed. We encourage everyone in our EMS community to be actively engaged in fostering this ideal, and all members of this class should contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and interact with civility. Our commitment to inclusivity aligns with Penn State’s values and policies. 

To learn more, visit EMS Educational Equity.  Here, you will find information about the EMS ALLWE initiative, the Rainbow EMS Network, Anti-Racism, active ally-ship, bystander intervention, and more. The site also has resources for where to turn if you need assistance and links to University references.  Also, contact your EMS department’s Associate Head for DEI for more information about department initiatives. 

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall be given to you in written (paper or electronic) form.