Solar Energy module (RE41002)

Learn how solar energy is a vital part of renewable energies and discover the cutting edge physics and technology behind harvesting solar energy.

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Module code


Solar energy is one of the major sources of renewable energy available to us, alongside wind.

The sun uses nuclear fusion to convert hydrogen into helium. This fusion in the sun will continue for billions of years.

The energy that is radiated from the sun reaches us as electromagnetic waves. We can harvest this both using solar panels to generate electricity and in solar thermal systems to generate heat.

Silicon solar panels dominate the solar Photovoltaic (PV) market. However, there are several competing technologies, including Cadmium Telluride and CIGS panels. The latest materials in the PV field are Perovskites, which can outperform silicon in research labs. Commercial Perovskite-silicon tandem cells will be a significant technology of the next 10 years.

This module explores how solar energy is a vital part of renewable energy. It also covers the cutting-edge physics and technology behind harvesting solar energy.

What You Will Learn

In this module, you will:

  • review electrical energy requirements in countries with established and stable grids
  • learn about solar energy as a major global source of renewable electrical energy
  • gain an understanding of photovoltaic science and technology
  • learn about the underlying material science and semiconductor physics behind photovoltaics
  • understand current photovoltaic research topics
  • consider demands placed on competing technologies, e.g. cost-reduction, up-scaling, stability, and life-cycle
  • learn the principles, technologies, and applications of solar thermal energy
  • identify health and safety, environmental impact, and sustainability issues in solar energy

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the underlying physics and material science of key photovoltaic technologies
  • consider the cost, business, political, social, and international background that drives photovoltaic implementation
  • understand the advantages and disadvantages of competing solar energy technologies
  • be part of the drive to increase renewable energy generation

Assignments / assessment

  • coursework (15%)
  • lab activities (25%)
  • quizzes (10%)
  • final exam (50%)

Teaching methods / timetable

You will learn by taking a hands-on approach. This will involve taking part in lectures, tutorials, workshops and laboratory sessions.

Learning material is provided through videos, review notes, examples, and tutorial questions, including lab demonstrations.


This module is available on following courses: