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EME 810 - Solar Resource Assessment and Economics

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


EME 810 provides students with an in-depth exploration of the physical qualities of the solar resource, estimation of the fractional contributions of irradiance to total demand, and economic assessment of the solar resource. The course utilizes real data sets and resources to provide students context for the drivers, frameworks, and requirements of solar energy evaluation.

EME 810 is designed to help students achieve three of the programmatic educational objectives established for the Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (MPS RESS) program. It fosters advanced critical thinking by challenging the students to understand the systems approach required to assess the impact of locale and resource and to understand the economic factors driving decisions for solar technology design and deployment. It applies the science of energy and sustainability through a deep understanding of the solar resource and how it applies to solar energy conversion systems. It promotes energy and sustainability project development by adding content knowledge to enable design decisions and technology constraints for solar technologies for maximizing solar utility for a client/stakeholder in a given locale.


Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • assess the solar resource to identify the greatest solar utility for a client in a given locale;
  • articulate the scientific and economic fundamentals of the solar resource as it applies to solar energy conversion;
  • describe the role of solar fraction in designing a solar project for a client;
  • identify the limitations of solar energy conversion technologies with respect to the given locale and client energy demands.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Solar Energy Conversion Systems, 1st Edition, Jeffrey Brownson, 2013. ISBN 0123973155
(An electronic version of Solar Energy Conversion Systems is available free of charge through the Penn State Library.)


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




EME 810 is a 3-credit graduate course. As a general rule, you can expect that a 3-credit course will call for an average of approximately 9-12 hours of work each week. This time commitment will include reading, watching videos, completing writing assignments and quizzes, and participating in discussion and peer review activities. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with the concepts covered, web research, and calculations. Every student is also expected to synthesize their knowledge in the solar design proposal in the end of the semester.

Major Assignments

  • Participation/discussions (15% of total course grade)
  • Weekly Learning Activities (35% of total course grade)
  • Quizzes (10% of total course grade)
  • Project: Solar Design Proposal (40% of total course grade)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1The Historical Context of Solar Energy Valued in Society
  • Discussion
  • Learning Activity: Identifying the Components of SECs 
2Tools for Time and Space Relationships
  • Discussion
  • Quiz
  • Learning Activity: Shadow Diagrams with Sun Charts
3Meteorology: the Many Facets of the Sky
  • Discussion
  • Quiz
  • Learning Activity: Laws of Light
  • Learning Activity: Clear Sky Model
4Measurement and Estimations of the Solar Resource
  • Discussion
  • Quiz
  • Learning Activity: Clearness Index
5Solar Economic Analysis
  • Quiz
6Maximizing the Solar Utility for the Client in a Locale
  • Discussion
  • Quiz
  • Learning Activity: Pre-Design Charette Plan
  • Project: Brainstorm
7Solar Finance
  • Discussion
  • Quiz
8Methods of Prediction
  • 2 Discussions
9Analysis for Policy Development
  • Discussion
  • Learning Activity: Community Solar Garden
10Ecosystems Impact from Solar Land Use
  • Discussion
  • Learning Activity: Sustainability and Ecosystems Services Pitch
11Solar Design Project Proposal Development
  • Project Proposal Draft
  • Peer Review of Project Proposal Draft
12Solar Design Project Proposal Development (cont.)
  • Discussion
  • Final Design Proposal Submission