EME 812
Utility Solar Power and Concentration

Individual Course Project


This last week of the semester is entirely reserved for the completion of your course project. The course project is a significant part of learning in this course, and it will be the way to apply the concepts learned to the evaluation of an existing solar energy facility. The project report should be built as a comprehensive review of multiple aspects and technologies involved in a utility-scale solar power generation.

For your project, you pick an existing solar plant, which may be a PV, CPV, or CSP facility operating in the U.S. or elsewhere. The main objective is to collect available information about this facility and to analyze different technological systems within it, including light concentration, tracking, energy conversion, power conditioning, operation parameters, etc. We spread out the research and writing tasks related to this project development through the semester, and the table below provides a list of the graded submissions. 

EME 812 Course project development milestones
Timeline of course project development What should be submitted Due date % of total grade
Selection of topic Preliminary title of the project and one paragraph justification Week 4 / See Canvas Calendar for due dates 2%
Technology review Written draft on technical background and status of technology involved in the facility (~4-5 pages) Week 9 / See Canvas Calendar for due dates 8%
Final report submission Written final report summarizing your assessment Week 12 / See Canvas Calendar for due dates 30%

Key components

This evaluation project should present the review of a number of important aspects that enable the power generation on the utility scale and are responsible for the process being technically feasible and economically viable. You may want to include the following sections, although this list is not exhaustive, and the content of the project may be build around the information you will be able to find:

  1. Topic, motivation, and goals
  2. Technology review
  3. Environmental setting and solar resource at the plant location
  4. System performance (analysis of existing data or SAM modeling)
  5. Economic assessment 
  6. Outlook and promise

You may plan additional sections in your report - anything you think would be important and relevant to your subject or to the specific socio-economic setting or location.

While this assessment is largely data compilation, and you will be using multiple sources to develop it, you need to critically evaluate the data and bring your own perspective to the discussion.

Tips on project submissions

Choice of a topic

Below are a couple of links that provide initial information on large-scale facilities, but you can find others, too.

If you think of choosing a particular plant, you may want to research it a little to see how much information is available. It would be preferable to have a variety of resources involved - government documents, published papers, web media, company releases. The more sources, the more comprehensive review you can build.

Technology review

These are some of the questions you may try to answer in this review:

  • What technologies are involved in the design of the chosen solar facility, and what is their function?
  • What technical principles are behind these technologies?
  • How is deployment of these technologies justified at this particular locale?
  • Are these technologies well-developed or new?
  • What commercial vendors provide these technologies and associated equipment?
  • What are alternatives and future perspectives in technological development of the plant?

Here, by technologies, we mean various technical components of the solar energy conversion. For example, in case of a photovoltaic plant, the key technologies to describe will be the type of PV cells used, module and array design, type of inverters, tracking systems, structural components (mounting frames etc.), energy storage system, monitoring and control systems, grid connection.

When describing these technologies, please refer to the specifics used at this particular plant. Provide images or graphics for better illustration. Originally prepared graphics is highly encouraged. If you borrow some images from the internet, please provide credits. List references to any sources you use, including websites. For proper way of citing references, please see CSE reference style.

Preparation of the Final Report

Your report should be an originally written document that summarizes your investigation of a chosen utility-scale solar facility. It should be comprehensive and deep enough research to qualify you as an analytical expert in key matters that provide for sustainable operation of this power plant.

The final report should include the previously prepared technology section, although feel free to expand and improve it, based on the instructor's feedback. Other sections should cover the above-mentioned required components and how they are implemented at this specific locale. If you are familiar with the System Advisor Model (SAM) software, which is available for free from the National Renewable Energy Lab website, it would be appropriate to use it for analysis. The final report should also discuss the matters of component integration and issues related to large-scale power generation and connection to the grid. How are these matters currently handled by plant management? Specific applications and clients that use the power supplied by the plant should be mentioned. Any important aspects of social adaptation and policy related to the plant construction and operation in the area can also be included. List references to any sources you use, including websites. For the proper way of citing references, please see CSE reference style.

The following rubrics will be used in the evaluation of final projects:

  • Depth of the technological background
  • Coverage of the key issues
  • Proper articulation and analysis of plant performance data
  • Critical thinking and personal perspective
  • Completeness of data search and references
  • Structure, presentation, and graphics

Good luck completing your project reports and have a great end of the semester!