EME 812
Utility Solar Power and Concentration

EME 812: Utility Solar Power and Concentration


Instructor and Author:

Mark V. Fedkin, Ph.D. in Geo-Environmental Engineering / Assistant Teaching Professor in the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (Online Masters and Graduate Certificates Program), The Pennsylvania State University.


EME 812 is an elective course for the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS) Professional Master's program and Solar Energy Certificate. The course explores the main physical principles of core solar energy conversion systems, including direct power conversion photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics (CPV), and thermal conversion to electricity via concentrating solar power strategies (CSP). It also covers fundamentals of enabling technologies such as light concentration, solar tracking, power conditioning, and energy storage. Learning in EME 812 relies on analysis of design and performance of existing solar plants that have been deployed in areas such as the southwestern USA, Spain, and North Africa.

Course Structure:

The course consists of 12 lessons covered over 12 weeks. Each lesson contains reading materials and links to learning resources, and assigns you some activities to complete. There are three main types of lesson activities: (i) forum discussions, (ii) written homework assignments, and (iii) reading quizzes. The twelfth week of the course is reserved for completing the individual course project. In your course project, you will develop a comprehensive analysis of a utility- scale solar system of your choice.

Learning Environment:

This website provides the primary instructional materials for the course. The menu on the top of the page links you to course orientation, syllabus, lessons, Canvas, and other supporting materials. Canvas, Penn State's course management system, is used to support the delivery of this course as well as provide the primary communications, calendaring, discussion, and submission tools for the course.

While you are working through your lessons each week, you will notice that there are a number of self-check exercises spread throughout the lesson. I highly encourage you to attempt to answer the question using the spaces provided before reviewing the answers provided. These exercises were designed to help you pause, process, and reflect on what you've learned.

Topics of Study:

  • Lesson 1: Solar Energy Conversion and Utility Scale Power
  • Lesson 2: Concentration Fundamentals
  • Lesson 3: Tracking Systems
  • Lesson 4: Photovoltaics
  • Lesson 5: Concentrating Photovoltaics
  • Lesson 6: PV Power Conditioning
  • Lesson 7: Concentrating Solar Power Technologies
  • Lesson 8: Concentrating Solar Power Strategies
  • Lesson 9: Energy Storage Technologies
  • Lesson 10: Utility Scale Solar+Storage 
  • Lesson 11-12: Individual Course Project

New to this course?

This course is offered as part of the Penn State’s online Professional Masters and Graduate Certificate Program in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS).

Registered students should begin with the Orientation in Canvas. Students who enroll in this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback, and earn academic credit.

With questions and further inquiries about the program, please contact RESS Program Office at info@ress.psu.edu.