MSc Renewable Energy and Clean Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Solar Energy Technologies

Course unit fact file
Unit code EEEN60421
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit deals with the renewable energy systems which directly exploit the solar radiation received by the earth viz. solar photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal technologies. Solar PV devices are broadly divided into three types: type I - crystalline semiconductor based cells (including concentrator cells); type II - devices based on large area, low cost thin films and type III - structures which aim to exploit fundamental physics in order to overcome the various energy loss mechanisms suffered in type I and type II devices. PV devices yield electrical energy directly whereas solar thermal technologies involve the direct absorption of sunlight and its conversion to heat or for electrical power generation. The unit describes the fundamental mechanisms of solar energy conversion in solar cells, identifying the material and device properties that lead to solar absorption and charge generation/separation for electrical energy generation. This establishes the key criteria for cell design and improvement of power conversion efficiency. Underpinning all of these device structures is the need to improve efficiency whilst reducing cost and so the routes to extracting optimal power and the factors which limit current PV cell efficiencies are covered. The optical and thermal parameters for solar thermal technologies are considered and the approaches for generating electrical power this way are reviewed. The exploitation of these renewable energy systems in both large scale power plants and in the urban, built infrastructure is considered.  


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in the current academic year and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.

The unit aims to:

Provide understanding of the science and engineering issues related to the design and development of renewable energy devices and systems for generating electricity from solar resources.

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:




Describe and quantify the solar energy resource available for electricity generation using both PV and solar thermal systems




Describe the fundamental material and device characteristics which enable all PV cells to convert solar energy into electrical energy




Describe the manufacturing and processing issues which impact upon the final performance and durability of PV cells




Describe the fundamental properties and design characteristics of Concentrated Solar (thermal) Power (CSP) plants




Apply scientific and mathematical analysis to the design and optimisation of materials and devices for PV and solar thermal systems.




Conduct laboratory experiments to realise a solar cell and measure its electrical output characteristics to determine the power conversion efficiency.




Teaching and learning methods

Traditional lectures, laboratory session (assessed via technical report), in-class practical session (not assessed) and tutorial session(s)


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written exam 80%

Coursework 1: Online multiple choice quiz (10%)

Duration: 1 hour


Coursework 2: Individual Report (10%)

15 pages (max)

Coursework feedback is provided online in Blackboard





Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Practical classes & workshops 9
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 105

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Iain Crowe Unit coordinator

Return to course details