Solar Energy View more

Learn the physics of energy harvesting from our most renewable source, the Sun.

Book 21 Lessons

Course description

This course was written in collaboration with Lee Weinstein. Lee earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, where he conducted research in solar thermal energy generation

In this course we'll examine the principal methods of harvesting energy from sunlight—concentrated solar power and photovoltaic cells—starting from fundamental physics principles.

Topics covered

  • Absorption and Emission
  • Carnot Efficiency
  • Concentrated Solar Power
  • Detailed Balance
  • Electromagnetic Waves
  • Energy Markets
  • Photons
  • Photovoltaic Cells
  • Semiconductor Physics
  • Shockley Diode Equation
  • Solar Availability
  • Solar Spectrum

Prerequisites and next steps

You should have a basic understanding of Newtonian mechanics and the second law of thermodynamics. A working knowledge of the Boltzmann distribution would help but is not necessary.