Fundamentals of Solar Power Plant Design

Upcoming dates (1)

Jul. 23-26, 2024


Course Overview

Learn the design fundamentals of photovoltaic projects. Gain knowledge and skills from engineers with real-life experience in solar energy and electrical delivery fields. You will also understand solar plant components and PV modules; DC system and AC collector design; civil and geotechnical issues; and interconnection to distribution and the bulk power grid.

Who Should Attend?

This course will benefit those new to the field of solar energy and those in need of a refresher, including:

  • Renewable energy developers
  • Electric utility design or planning engineers
  • Power system dispatchers
  • Consulting engineers
  • Project managers
  • Managers of design departments
  • Engineering technicians

Course Outline

Energy from the Sun

  • Solar irradiance principles
  • Measure of merit for incident solar
  • What makes a location good?
  • Factors affecting incident energy
  • Diurnal/seasonal pattern of incident energy

Solar Power Assessment

  • Solar insolation mapping
  • Standards
  • Uncertainty and "bankability"
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Reports and graphs

Electric Power Generation and Delivery Fundamentals

  • Power system fundamentals
  • Conversion of DC to AC
  • Power flow analysis example
  • Real and reactive power
  • Power system operation, control and protection

Photovoltaic Basics

  • Semiconductors and the photovoltaic effect
  • A brief history of the development of PV cells
  • Cell materials: mono- and poly-crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride,


  • Makeup of solar panels from solar cells
  • Conversion efficiency

Solar Plant Components and Overview

  • Plant design and optimization
  • Solar panels and racks
  • DC electrical connections
  • Inverter block with step-up transformer
  • AC collection
  • Power plant controls and grid integration features

Solar Cells and Modules

  • Current-irradiance and voltage-temperature relationships
  • Power-current relationship and maximum power point
  • Incidence angle
  • Electrical effect of shading
  • Hot spots and by-pass diodes
  • Reliability, testing, and spectral response

DC System Design

  • Panel sizing for site conditions
  • Connecting panels as a string
  • String planning and layout
  • String DC combination levels
  • DC cabling to inverter
  • DC system protection
  • Losses within strings

Inverter and Power Control

  • The inverter as the heart of the power block
  • Inverter equipment and modules
  • DC connections from re-combiner
  • Maximizing energy harvest through DC voltage control
  • AC current regulation for real and reactive power

AC Collector System

  • Collector system overview and single-line
  • Collector layout and installation
  • Load flow modeling and sizing of conductors
  • Inverters and step-up transformers
  • System grounding considerations
  • Reactive power and harmonic filters

Civil and Geotechnical Issues

  • Geotechnical investigations: site preparation and earthworks, foundation considerations
  • Ground-mount foundation solutions, rammed posts, helicals, or ground screws; ballast systems
  • Design loads: dead loads; wind, snow, and seismic zones; adfreeze considerations
  • Racking assembly
  • Panel installation, connections, and wiring
  • Measurement of soil thermal resistivity

Interconnection of Renewable Energy Plants with the Electric Grid

  • Interconnection agreements and studies
  • Grid codes
  • Disturbance ride-through
  • Post-fault recovery
  • Solar plant modeling in power system analyses
  • Cloud transients, ramp rates, and the case for energy storage

Connection of Distributed PV Solar Units

  • Market drivers of rooftop PV units
  • Impacts of rooftop PV units on a distribution feeder: voltage considerations, harmonics, feeder ampacity limits
  • Distribution feeder PV "hosting" limits

Bulk Power System Considerations

  • IEEE 1547 and "Smart Inverters"
  • Emerging needs for low voltage ride through: emerging needs for voltage / power factor control, status and changes in the standard
  • Changing load curves due to solar variability


James Niemira

James K. Niemira, P.E., is a Principal Engineer of S&C Electric Company in the Power Systems Solutions organization. He has over 30 years of professional experience in the electric power industry. Present responsibilities include oversight of analysis and design work in the Engineering Services and Consulting & Analytical Services. Mr. Niemira has performed design work, field start‐up, and commissioning of wind power plant substations and data center substation sites; expansions of existing substations; distribution system protection and automation projects with protective relays; substation design, and collector system design for renewable energy generation sites (wind and solar); and the analytic studies to support these designs.

He is active in the IEEE/PES Power System Relay & Control Committee; a member of the Technical Committee of the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace; and is a licensed Professional Engineer in 31 states.

Mahesh Morjaria

Dr. Mahesh Morjaria is one of the founders of REPlantSolutions, a First Solar spin-off, whose mission is to bring advanced solar plant technologies and know-how developed at First Solar to the industry.  Previously, he was a VP at First Solar leading the R&D effort in utility-scale solar plants. Over the past decade, he has established himself as an industry-recognized leader in the area of solar generation and in addressing challenges associated with integrating solar into the power grid. Dr. Morjaria previously worked at GE for twenty years where he held various leadership positions including a significant role in wind energy. His academic credits include B.Tech from IIT Bombay and M.S. & Ph.D. from Cornell University.

Nick Strevel

Mr. Nicholas Strevel is the Vice President of Product Management and Technical Sales at First Solar, leading diverse teams which specialize in PV module technology, system engineering, product performance, and competitive benchmarking. Throughout his 13+ years of PV industry has authored numerous publications about Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) technology, performance and photovoltaic (PV) module reliability.

He started his career at United Solar Ovonic, the leading producer at the time of amorphous-Si BIPV modules. During his career there he worked in module manufacturing, application engineering and business development, both in the USA and Germany. At First Solar, Nicholas has held various roles in technical sales, and product technology. Nicholas also worked as Vice President of Global Sales for Link Engineering Company, a world leader in transportation test equipment and services.

Nicholas is a board member of Glass City Community Solar, a non-profit organization that develops, finances, and operates solar PV systems which benefit low income residents in the Toledo, OH area.

Mr. Strevel has a BSME in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University, including diploma studies at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule in Aachen, Germany.

Mike Arnold

Professor, UW-Madison Department of Materials Science and Engineering

James Tinjum

James M. Tinjum, PE, PhD, F.ASCE, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Geological Engineering Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Prior to his engagement as a faculty member at UW–Madison in 2008, Dr. Tinjum worked for 15 years in industry for prominent engineer-procure-construct firms and a Fortune 50 company. He has specialized technical knowledge in geoenvironmental and remediation engineering for landfills with industrial waste (lime kiln dust, cement kiln dust, foundry residuals, paper mill sludge, coal combustion residuals), municipal solid waste (particularly landfill liner and cover systems and the monitoring, recovery, and value-added use of landfill gases), and hazardous waste. He conducts research in waste geotechnics and waste containment systems; the beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts (e.g., for subgrade improvement and cementitious stabilization of pavement layers); life cycle environmental analysis of geo systems; remediation of contaminated sites; and heat transfer in porous media (soil and rock). Dr. Tinjum developed these interests not only through industry practice and applied research, but also through discussions and interactions with practitioners participating in his nationally/internationally attended engineering short course programs. In applied practice, Dr. Tinjum has participated in over 50 solid waste projects.  

Bulent Sarlioglu

Bulent Sarlioglu is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Technology and Collaboration Director of WEMPEC of the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium. From 2000 to 2011, he was with Honeywell International Inc.'s Aerospace Division, Torrance, CA, USA, most recently as a Staff Systems Engineer.  His expertise includes electrical machines, drives, and power electronics, particularly in electrifying transportation and industrial applications. He is the inventor or co-inventor of 22 U.S. patents and many international patents. In addition, he has more than 300 technical papers that are published in conference proceedings and journals. Dr. Sarlioglu received Honeywell's Outstanding Engineer Award in 2011 for his outstanding contribution to aerospace, the NSF CAREER Award in 2016, and the 4th Grand Nagamori Award from Nagamori Foundation, Japan, in 2018.  Dr. Sarlioglu received the IEEE PES Cyril Veniott Award in 2021. Dr. Sarlioglu became a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2021 and an IEEE Fellow in 2022.

Upcoming dates (1)

Program Director

Bulent Sarlioglu

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