Solar Energy Option - Are You Ready?

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Solar Energy Option/Solar Energy Certificate Readiness Assessment

The iMPS-RESS Solar Energy Option is a technical program for project design and development, requiring strong math and physics skills in order to integrate the interdisciplinary materials and cultivate new abilities in project finance and policy. Many students will not have a background in solar resource assessment and conversion from radiant to electrical or thermal forms of energy, which is why we encourage students with strong math and physics skills.  Several disciplines converge to form solar systems project development (e.g., geographic information science, meteorology, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture and architectural engineering, economics and policy). Individuals are expected to begin study in the Solar Energy Option with a core piece of knowledge, developed from

  • A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree related to one of the above fields,
  • 3-5 years of professional experience applying a related field of knowledge (following an alternate bachelor’s degree), or
  • 3-5 years prior experience working in the field of solar energy project development or installation, having learned several ‘rules-of-thumb’ and practical skills in the line of work. 

Students will be able to tailor their study as either a solar thermal focus (including solar hot water, industrial solar thermal processing, and concentrating solar power) or a solar electric focus (including photovoltaics, fixed and tracking). Students will work with their advisor to plan a course selection that integrates and emphasizes pre-existing skills with career interests. 

What are the core skills that will help me to assess whether or not I am ready for study in Solar Energy within the iMPS-RESS program?

  1. Applied math background
    In order to incorporate the fundamentals of solar energy into applied project design and finance, students will have strong math skills that include trigonometry, matrix algebra, and calculus.
  2. Familiarity with computer scripts and minor programming is highly recommended
    Many solar projects involve computing software to solve lengthy algorithms and to manipulate large data sets. Experience with mathematical programming languages like Matlab, Scilab, Python, or Sage are an asset.
  3. Applied understanding of electricity.*
    This includes current/voltage relationships to deliver power and an understanding of AC and DC power and supporting technologies.
    *Specific to courses related to photovoltaics and solar conversion for electrical power (a solar electric focus).
  4. Applied understanding of thermal transfer and storage.*
    This includes thermal transfer by conduction and convection, heat capacity, and an understanding of specific and latent heat in materials.
    *Specific to courses related to solar thermal applications and concentrating solar power (a solar thermal focus). 

A candidate student will also have the strong desire to become a leader in the field, contributing to solar project design and deployment.

The resulting integrated skills of a master’s level solar systems project development graduate will include solar resource assessment for selected locales, effective communications to design to maximize the solar economic utility to the client/stakeholders, knowledge of thermal- and/or electric-derived solar conversion technologies, technical knowledge of design in hybridized solar systems design, and the social and policy context of solar systems project design. The iMPS-RESS Solar Energy Option will create graduates who can lead project and policy development in the solar energy industry.