Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


The goal is to understand the physics and technology of solar energy utilization, including thermal and electric applications, at a level adequate for needs found in practical or academic environments.

After the course, students will be able to

  • Estimate the available solar radiation based on physical, geographical and atmospheric factors
  • Explain the daily and seasonal variation of solar irradiance and how they affect the design of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems
  • Evaluate the effect of solar tracking and concentration on the amount of collected radiation
  • Explain the working principle of photovoltaic cells and solar thermal collectors (below devices) in terms of the underlying physical phenomena and device structure
  • Name the most important performance loss mechanisms, and explain how they depend on the materials and structural properties of the devices
  • Describe and analyze the performance characteristics and energy conversion efficiency of the devices through a physical model, and use it to interpret experimental results
  • Design and size photovoltaic and solar thermal systems with or without local energy storage
  • Use central tools of solar energy engineering, such as solar angle calculations, meteorological irradiance databases, solar collector performance models, current-voltage models of photovoltaic cells, optical and thermal models, etc., which solar energy utilization is often based on.

Credits: 5

Schedule: 08.01.2024 - 19.04.2024

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Janne Halme

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Physical foundations and practical applications of solar energy. Solar radiation and its attenuation, radiation components, measuring and assessing solar radiation solar angles, tracking systems, interactions with materials, wavelength selective materials, solar thermal collector, HWB equation, photovoltaic effect, solar cell, equivalent circuit, concentrated solar radiation, CSP plants, solar energy systems and their components, assessing performance.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Homework assignments and two mid-term exams. The mid-term exams may be replaced with one full-course exam.

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Lectures, exercise sessions, homework, independent study.


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Duffie, J.A, Beckman, A. Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (selected parts). The book is available as an E-book via Aalto Univeristy library. 

    Smets, A., Jäger, K. et al. Solar Energy, the physics and engineering of photovoltaic conversion technologies and systems. Cambridge UIT. (selected parts, available as free pdf). (Limited number of hard copies of the book are available via Aalto Univeristy library.)

    Lecture notes and supporting material.

Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

    13 Climate Action


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Teaching Language : English

    Teaching Period : 2022-2023 No teaching
    2023-2024 Spring III - IV