Holography and Diffractive Optics
Catalog Data: 

Graduate Course Information


ECE 514A

Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems

Credits:  3.00

Course Website:

UA Catalog Description:

Course Assessment:

Homework:  6-7assignments

Project:  1 design project, research paper review

Exams:  1 Midterm Exam, 1 Final Exam

Grading Policy:

20% Midterm Exam

15% Homework

10% Research Paper Review

10% Lab Experiments

10% System Design Project

35% Final Exam

Course Summary:

This course is intended to provide an introduction to the theory and operation of different types of photovoltaic devices, the characteristics of solar illumination, and the advantages and characteristics of concentrating and light management optics. The physical limits on photovoltaic cell performance and practical device operation will be analyzed. The main device emphasis will focus on different types of silicon photovoltaic cells including crystalline, amorphous, multi-crystalline, and thin film solar cells. An overview of other types of photovoltaic cells including multi-junction III-V, CdTe, CuIn(Ga)Se2, and organics will also be given. A discussion of radiometric and spectral properties of solar illumination will be presented and the impact of these factors on solar cell design will be explored. Techniques for increasing the performance of solar cells by light trapping, photon recycling, and anti-reflection coatings will be covered. The design and operation of imaging and non-imaging concentrators will also be discussed. Basic experiments related to PV cell measurements and the optical properties of concentrators are also planned for the course.

Graduate Standing

Online Text at

Class Text: Applied Photovoltaics 2nd Ed., S.R. Wenham, M. A. Green, M. E. Watt, and R. Corkish, Earthscan, ISBN-13 978-84407-401-3 (2007). (Not Required)

Recommended Texts: The Physics of Solar Cells, by Jenny Nelson, Imperial College Press, 2006; Physics of Solar Cells,2nd Ed., Peter Wurfel, Wiley-VCH, ISBN: 978-3-527-40857-6 (2009).

Course Topics: 

  1. Introduction

a. Energy needs of the planet/US

b. Energy available from solar radiation

c. Greenhouse effect

d. Different types of PV systems; examples from manufacturers; CdTe; CIGS; Si, a-Si, organic PV, concentrator systems:

e. Basic properties of solar radiation – sun movement, AM1.5 spectrum

f. Problems with PV energy systems – efficiency, intermittency, storage;

  1. Economics and metrics of PV systems

a. Cost of different energy sources

b. Cost per area

c. $/Wp

d. Performance ratio

e. Normalized performance metric (David King)

f. Levelized cost of energy (LCOE); Feed in tariffs (FITs)

- Energy payback time (EPBT)


  1. Radiometric properties of solar radiation (3 lectures)

    1. Spectral content of solar illumination
    2. Air mass conditions; solar constant
    3. Radiometric parameters – measuring illumination on a collector
    4. Black body characteristics
    5. Modeling the sun as a blackbody


  1. PV cell operating characteristics (2 lectures)
    1. PV cell circuit equivalent – approach PV operation purely from a circuit perspective
    2. Ideal diode equation – computation of Voc
    3. External loading of a PV cell
    4. Voc, Isc, I-V curves
    5. FF, MPP


  1. PV Cell Physics
    1. Direct and indirect energy band gap
    2. Light absorption; spectral dependence
    3. Optimum band gap – Shockley Quiesser limit
    4. PV diode model: space charge, QNR
    5. Minority carrier generation rates, lifetime, drift, diffusion lengths
    6. Recombination rates
    7. Semiconductor equations for PV cells
    8. Two-diode model related to Voc, Isc;
    9. Effects of shunt and series resistance


  1. PV Cell Design
    1. Silicon cell construction
    2. Optical reflection, anti-reflection coatings, light trapping, texturing
    3. Electrical grid contacts
    4. Novel designs – nano-wire PV cells-reduced diffusion length
  2. Modules and arrays
    1. Series and parallel connected cells
    2. Effects of shading on series and parallel connected cells – Voc and Isc
    3. Power dissipation in shaded cells
    4. Use of by-pass diodes; dissipation of power in by-pass diodes
    5. Basic inverter operation
    6. Grid-tie and battery connected installations


  1. System design issues
    1. Estimating available solar illumination
    2. Nominal operating cell temperature (NOCT)
    3. Estimating performance at non-STC
    4. System energy yield
    5. Performance with one-axis tracking


  1. Solar concentrators and concentrator systems (NEW)
    1. Optical concentrator design – limits based on radiance theorem; tracking requirements
    2. High concentration and low concentration systems
    3. Concentrator PV cell properties
    4. Multi-junction cells – high efficiency with multiple bandgaps
    5. Spectrum-splitting systems


  1. Testing and characterization Methods (NEW)
    1. I-V measurements; Voc, Isc measurement
    2. Sourcemeter operation – 4 wire connection
    3. Spectral measurements –spectrometers
    4. Test yard evaluations: energy yield, reliability, degradation testing


  1. Thin Film Materials (NEW)
    1. Amorphous silicon
    2. CIGS
    3. CdTe
    4. Light trapping techniques and structures
  2. Storage Systems (NEW)
    1. Batteries: battery terminology; charging and discharge properties; different types of batteries; limits of battery systems
    2. Hydrogen production systems
    3. Compressed gas storage systems
  3. Limits to solar energy conversion
    1. Thermal equilibrium considerations
    2. Carnot efficiency, Landsberg, and Black Body limit
  4. Third generation systems and future prospects
    1. Plasmonic enhancement of PV cell energy yield
    2. Refinement of silicon processing
    3. Optical techniques to increase PV system energy yield

Class/Laboratory Schedule: 

Lecture:  150 minutes/week

Laboratory:  Open Schedule (4 labs/semester)

Prepared by: 
Raymond K. Kostuk
Prepared Date: 
April 2013

University of Arizona College of Engineering