Photovoltaics Overview

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With the recent emphasis by the incoming administration in the US and other countries around the world, solar energy is again being seriously considered for widespread implementation. Since the 1970s, a number of breakthroughs in photovoltaic technology have made electricity generation from light more feasible and economical. Today, many companies are now developing and introducing technologies to harness power from the sun.

The number of different technologies and configurations is increasing rapidly. It is becoming quite difficult to keep track of the developments, let alone understand them. An Overview of Photovoltaics is a one-day course that describes photovoltaic technology, its operation, the basic PV technologies, PV packaging, and system level implementation and issues. This course is designed for every manager, engineer, and technician entering the photovoltaic field, whether it be working directly for a photovoltaic manufacturer or system integrator, or selling equipment to the PV market and PV manufacturers.

What Will I Learn By Taking This Class?

Participants learn to the basics of photovoltaic technology, the steps involved to integrate these modules, full chip-level integration, issues, and how to address them. The course covers five major topic areas.

  1. Background Information on Solar Technology. Participants learn the history of solar technology. They also learn about how photovoltaic costs have declined since the 1970s, following a "Moore's Law" curve of their own. They also learn about solar resources on the planet, applications, and the current use of solar photovoltaics.
  2. Energy Economics. Photovoltaics will only become widespread when the cost becomes competitive with other energy technologies. Participants learn how capacity factors are calculated, capital costs, energy demands, peak usage, and storage methods.
  3. Types of Photovoltaics. Participants learn about monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, and silicon thin film technologies. They will also learn about compound semiconductor technologies and multi-junction cells.
  4. Module Construction. Participants learn about cell classification, interconnect technology, and testing. They will also study laminate assembly technologies, including the glass polymers, the resin/glass sandwich construction, and the backplane. Of particular importance is the top glass. We will spend time discussing the durability, safety and transmission properties of the glass. Participants will also learn about the costs and the cost trade-offs involved with the module manufacturing process.
  5. Photovoltaic Systems. Participants learn about the power output and costs. They will understand the effects of latitude and climate. They will also be introduced to tracking systems and calculate the tradeoffs associated with tracking, shading, and other effects.

Course Objectives

  1. The seminar will provide participants with an overview of the solar photovoltaic industry.
  2. The participant will be able to understand and recognize the various photovoltaic technologies.
  3. The seminar will identify the major issues associated with cell efficiencies.
  4. The seminar will also identify the major cost tradeoffs associated with manufacturing, and system components.
  5. The participant will be able to make informed decisions regarding installation of systems.
  6. The participant will be able to understand his/her role in the context of the industry.

Course Outline

  1. Background of Solar Technology
    1. Early attempts at solar
    2. Declining costs of PV
    3. Definition of Gen I, Gen II, and Gen III PV technologies
    4. Solar resources planet-wide
    5. Applications
    6. Utility scale
    7. "Distributed grid" rooftop applications
    8. Current usage of solar PV
  2. Energy economics
    1. Capacity factor calculations
    2. Comparison of solar PV to other methods
    3. Daily energy demand variations and peak usage
    4. Energy storage methods and costs
    5. Differences in economic case for point of use PV versus utility scale power generation
  3. Types of PV
    1. Monocrystalline Si
    2. Polycrystalline Si
    3. Si thin film
    4. CdTe and CIGS
    5. High performance multijunction cells
  4. From cell to module
    1. Cell classification
    2. Front side ribbon soldering
    3. Cell interconnects and "stringing"
    4. Electrical circuit assembly
    5. Laminate assembly
    6. CPV
  5. PV systems: Power output, footprint, and cost
    1. Effects of latitude and climate
    2. Tracking Systems
    3. Balance of system (inverters, mounting racks, installation costs)

Instructional Strategy

By using a combination of instruction by lecture, problem solving, and question/answer sessions, participants will learn practical information about the solar photovoltaic industry. From the very first moments of the seminar until the last sentence of the training, the driving instructional factor is application. Our instructors are internationally recognized experts in their fields and have years of both current and relevant experience. The course notes offer hundreds of pages of reference material that the participants can apply during their daily activities.

Instructor Profile

Ian Aeby, Ph.D.

Ian Aeby is director of Quality and Reliablity at Emcore Solar Power. Ian has an MSEE from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a concentration in integrated optics and semiconductors. He has worked on photovoltaics systems for a number of years, overseeing the quality and reliability of both silicon and compound semiconductor devices and systems.

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