Solar collector design optimization: A hands-on project case study

  • Dunbar P. Birnie
  • David M. Kaz
  • Elena A. Berman
Keywords: hands-on projects, solar energy, optimization


A solar power collector optimization design project has been developed for use in undergraduate classrooms and/or laboratories. The design optimization depends on understanding the current-voltage characteristics of the starting photovoltaic cells as well as how the cells electrical response changes with increased light illumination. Students were given the assignment of building a small reflective concentrator to match with a single solar cell and to maximize the total power output from the system. In addition to providing practical suggestions for how to assign and run this project, we describe the design and construction of simple test equipment to help students reach their optimum designs. Post-mortem assessment of the project was done with a 30-student class and improvements for future implementation of the project are suggested, including different tasks and design constraint situations that can be assigned.