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Photovoltaic Power Systems

Lee Layton, P.E.

Course Outline

This course begins with an overview of the photovoltaic power systems including the different types of systems in use.  Solar radiation is reviewed too.

Next, the science of solar cells is discussed including cell theory, cell material characteristics, cell materials, and cell array configurations.

The balance of system equipment is reviewed including batteries, charge controllers, and inverters.  The final section of the course discusses siting, sizing, metering, and standards related to photovoltaic power systems.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

After taking this course you should,

Intended Audience

This course is intended for anyone who wants to know more about how photovoltaic power systems are designed, sized, and installed in distributed generation modes

Benefit to Attendees

After taking this course you will understand the benefits of the different types of photovoltaic systems and how the systems are designed, sized, and installed.

Course Introduction

Photovoltaic systems use solar cells to generate electricity from the power of the sun.  These systems are quite, unobtrusive, and require very little maintenance.

The energy crisis of the 1970’s created interest in widespread use of photovoltaics for energy production, but the systems of that era were prohibitively expensive with prices of over $1,000 per peak watt.  Since the 1970’s, the industry has continued to research and design more cost effective solar cells for photovoltaic systems.  By the year 2000, the cost of photovoltaic systems had dropped to about $8.00 per peak watt and the cost continues to decline.  Installed costs for a small 5,000-watt residential application are about $30,000, or $6.00 per watt.  These prices are still much higher than traditional generation sources and some claim that the cost of manufacturing solar cells may actually use more energy than the solar cells will ever produce, but the technology continues to evolve and may become a viable generation source for general applications.  Photovoltaic systems have already found applications for remote radio repeaters and other sites where grid connected power is not available.

Course Content

This course content is in the following PDF document:

Photovoltaic Power Systems

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Course Summary

Photovoltaic systems are not cheap.  Even small systems are expensive.  The price of photovoltaic systems has fallen dramatically in the past thirty years and as more units enter the mainstream energy markets, prices should continue to fall.  These systems are already being widely used in niche markets.  Recent changes in the United States’ energy policies should make selling power to the local power company more attractive too.

The balance-of-system equipment associated with solar cells is increasing in sophistication and capability.  With the technology available today, photovoltaic power systems can generate power that is equal to, and sometime, better, than the local power company can supply.

Photovoltaic power systems are just one of technologies that can be used to reduce the demand for coal and natural gas fired power plants.  Along with other renewable power production technologies such as wind farms, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass systems, it has the potential to reduce to help reduce carbon emissions in this country.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.