EME 812
Utility Solar Power and Concentration

EME 812 Syllabus


Welcome to Utility Solar Power and Concentration!

It is essential that you read the entire syllabus as well as material covered in the course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract".

Mark Fedkin's Picture
Mark Fedkin

Mark Fedkin
Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, 
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University

Office Hours: Online by appointment

Email: mvf3@psu.edu
Please use the Inbox tool in Canvas for any course communications.

"Welcome everyone! If you need to get in touch with me, sending an email is the best way! I will read and try to respond to you within 24 hours during the work week (Monday through Friday) and will occasionally check it on weekends."

Course Overview

EME 812 is one of the solar energy courses in the Renewable Energy track of the Master's of Professional Studies degree program in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (RESS). The course explores the main physical principles of key technologies for solar energy conversion systems, including photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics (CPV), concentrating solar power (CSP), and energy storage. It also covers fundamentals of enabling technologies such as light concentration, solar tracking, power conversion cycles, power conditioning, and distribution. Learning in EME 812 relies on analysis of existing solar plants that have been deployed in different areas of the world.

Class Support Services

Penn State Online offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.

Course Objectives

When you successfully complete this course, you will have gained technical and theoretical background for utility scale solar energy conversion technologies to generate electric power.


On average, students spend 8 to 12 hours per week working on a 3-credit online course. You will have flexibility to spread that workload according to your schedule and your study habits. Time spent may depend on your prior experience with the web learning environment and reading pace.

The class is asynchronous, i.e. there are no live lecture time, but you will be expected to participate in online discussion forums at least twice a week and complete homework assignments by weekly deadlines. The homework assignments will typically involve applying the concepts covered in the lesson to example problems, online research, and calculations. Success in this class will also depend on the effort you put into your course project. The project will require in-depth research of a particular solar conversion system of your choice.

Specific learning objectives are detailed within each lesson.

Required Course Materials

Required and recommended textbooks

There is no single textbook for this course. Because of the topic diversity, we will use multiple resources, most of which will be available online through Penn State Library system. Access to the Internet is a key requirement for this course.

Online lesson content

Most materials needed for this course are presented online. 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.

Reserve materials

This course uses library Electronic Reserves (E-Reserves), which are available via the Library Resources tab. More information about how to access this content is available in the course orientation.


  • Yellowdig Discussion Platform - cost: $12.95 for the semester
  • System Adviser Model (SAM), National Renewable Energy Lab (free)

Weekly Assignments and Grading

This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

Grade Breakdown

Assignment Total Weight
Yellowdig Discussions 20%
Reading Quizzes 10%
Written Assignments 30%
Individual Course Project  


Lessons also contain a certain number of self-check questions and mini-problems embedded within the text. Those assignments are ungraded and are given only as tool for self-assessment.


It is important that your work be submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Assignment dropbox or Discussion Forum and by the designated due date. Only following the designated submission procedure will make sure that your work is adequately accepted and graded.

Due dates for all assignments are posted on the course calendar in Canvas.

Canvas gradebook will be used for graded assessments in this course. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Grading Scale
Grade Percent
A 93 – 100%
A- 90 – 92.9%
B+ 87 – 89.9%
B 83 – 86.9%
B- 80 – 82.9%
C+ 77 – 79.9%
C 70 – 76.9%
D 60 – 69.9%
F < 60.0%
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Citation and Reference Style

In written assignments and reports, when referring to someone’s work, please use the APA reference style. 

Late policy

The Graduate Certificate and MPS Degree programs in RESS were designed specifically for adult professionals who need to study part-time while they work full-time. If you encounter a scheduling conflict, please notify the instructor as soon as possible to request deadline extension. Reasonable requests are granted without penalty. However, I encourage you to make any effort to submit assignments on time in order to keep you work on pace and avoid assignment pileup. Note that Yellowdig participation points cannot be made up once point earning period ended. Typically, you will be given one week for completing assignments on a lesson.

EME 812 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

Below, you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. This course is twelve weeks in length, with Orientation preceding the official start of the course. Each lesson is one week long. See course Calendar in Canvas for specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates.

Each lesson will begin on Thursday, and unless otherwise stated, all written assignments will be due in a week, at 11:55 pm (your local time) the next Wednesday. The mid-week submission will allow me to better address your questions closer to the deadline. Each weekly point earning period for Yellowdig discussions will run from Saturday to Friday. 

Typical Weekly Schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Lesson begins Discussion period starts
Assignment due Next lesson begins Discussion period ends

NOTE: See the Canvas Calendar tab for a full semester calendar of events.

List of topics and activities included in the course is presented below. Refer to the course website for specific reading materials recommended for each lesson.

Topics & Activities






  • EME 812
  1. Perform tasks outlined in Course Orientation to become familiar with the course and the course environment.
  2. Post a self-introduction.
  3. Complete the Initial Course Survey.

Week 1

Lesson 1:  Solar Energy Conversion and Utility Solar Power

  • 1.1. Solar Energy Conversion Overview
  • 1.2. Efficiency of Conversion
  • 1.3. Utility Scale Power
  • 1.4. Environmental Impact of Utility Scale Solar Power
  • 1.5. Units and Terminology
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Yellowdig discussion

Week 2

Lesson 2: Concentration Fundamentals

  • 2.1. Available Solar Radiation and How it is Measured
  • 2.2. Types and Elements of Concentrating Collectors
  • 2.3. Concentration Ratio
  • 2.4. Concentration with a Parabolic Reflector
  • 2.5. CPC Collectors
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Homework Assignment 
  4. Yellowdig discussion

Week 3

Lesson 3: Tracking Systems

  • 3.1. Why tracking?
  • 3.2. Apparent daily path of the sun
  • 3.3. Types of tracking systems
  • 3.4. Engineering devices for solar tracking
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Homework assignment
  3. Yellowdig discussion 

Week 4

Lesson 4: Photovoltaics

  • 4.1. Photovoltaic effect
  • 4.2. p-n junction
  • 4.3. How PV performance is measured
  • 4.4. PV systems across scale
  • 4.5. Types of PV technology and recent innovations
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Yellowdig discussion

Week 5

Lesson 5: Concentrating Photovoltaics

  • 5.1. What are concentrating photovoltaics?
  • 5.2. Light concentration effect on PV performance and efficiency
  • 5.3.Advanced materials for CPV
  • 5.4. CPV market overview
  • 5.5. Ongoing activities and projects in CPV
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Homework assignment
  4. Project topic discussion (Yellowdig)

Week 6

Lesson 6: PV Power Conditioning

  • 6.1. Main components of large PV systems
  • 6.2. Connections in large PV systems
  • 6.3. Architecture of the large PV systems
  • 6.4. Inverters
  • 6.5. Efficiency of Inverters
  • 6.6 Switching devices
  • 6.7. DC/DC Conversion
  • 6.8. PV--Grid Connection
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Yellowdig discussion

Week 7

Lesson 7: Concentrating Solar Power Technologies

  • 7.1. Introducing Concentrating Solar Power
  • 7.2. Parabolic trough CSP technology
  • 7.3. Central tower CSP technology
  • 7.4. Parabolic dish CSP technology
  • 7.5. Thermal-electric power conversion
  • 7.6. Rankine Cycle
  • 7.7. Examples of solar thermal power systems
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Homework Assignment
  4. Yellowdig discussion

Week 8

Lesson 8: Concentrating Solar Power Strategies

  • 8.1. CSP site selection and feasibility analysis
  • 8.2. Socio-economic aspects of CSP technology
  • 8.3. Environmental assessment of CSP technology
  • 8.4. Optimization of CSP systems
  • 8.5. Thermal Energy Storage
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Homework assignment
  3. Yellowdig discussion

Week 9

Lesson 9: Energy Storage

  • 9.1. Options for energy storage
  • 9.2.Battery storage 
  • 9.3. Compressed Air and Pumped Hydro
  • 9.4.Hydrogen storage
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Reading quiz
  3. Technology review (project)
  4. Yellowdig discussion

Week 10

Lesson 10: Utility Scale Solar+ Storage

  • 10.1. Purpose of utility scale storage systems
  • 10.2. Key metrics and definitions
  • 10.3. Battery Arrays
  • 10.4. Resource constraints and Environmental Considerations
  1. Read lesson materials
  2. Homework assignment
  3. Yellowdig discussion

Week 11-12

Lesson 12: Individual Course Project

  • Course project development milestones
  • Key components of the final paper.
  1. Final Project Paper Submission
  2. Yellowdig discussion

Course Policies

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 (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (for students at all other campus locations).

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.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


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

This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. 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 Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. 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 well-being.  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 to 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.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

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. All changes will be communicated to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.