A Renewable Energy Undergraduate Course underlining the collection of solar radiation
The growth of solar radiation electricity generation has been increasing steadily during the last ten years. The cost of solar electricity has decreased steadily. These trends support an optimistic view of the future of the solar industry.
Our course design efforts are relevant because good solar projects use good analysis of the solar irradiance reaching the proposed site of installation under study. Although several sources of information are available, our attention is on NREL’s Measurement and Instrumentation Data Center, because it provides minute by minute daily data, allowing the analysis of clearness and variability of the solar radiation. These qualities have an impact on the dispatch of solar electricity.
Since this knowledge is available and it is relevant to the application of engineering our goal was to design a course where two inductive teaching and learning methods would apply: guided inquiry and problem based. The scholarship of application requires attention to the following application design and intended outcomes.
The particular activities and learning objectives of this course are the following:
1- Activity: During solar noon at the University sundial measure the length of the solar column cast by the sundial column. Learning objectives: study the sun motion, the altitude and azimuth angles. Calculate the day’s declination angle, and observe its variation during the year. Calculate air mass and understand the difference between clock time and solar time
2- Activity: Use a clear sky insolation calculator. Learning objectives: distinguish the different paths followed by radiation when reaching a solar panel or collector; assess the effect of the panel’s tilt angle and orientation. Compute and compare the three types of radiation.
3- Activity: evaluate solar panels efficiency. Learning objectives: use array’s electricity power and energy production data, together with the data provided by an inexpensive global irradiance sensor located in the plane of the array.
4- Activity: Download and read irradiance data form NREL’s MIDC. Learning objectives: Access NREL/MIDC website. Explore selected solar station data. Correlate the station time zones and standard longitudes
5- Activity: Process daily Global Horizontal irradiance data. Learning objectives: Use MATLab program to analyze minute by minute solar data. Observe the variable character of solar radiation. Observe the difference between clear sky model and measured irradiances.
6- Activity: Analyze daily Direct Normal irradiance data. Learning objectives: Classify solar days according to its clear and variable characteristics
7- Collective Activity: analyze the irradiance from 12 selected NREL/MIDC solar stations. Learning objectives: Classify sites according to clear and variable indexes, and collected insolation during the month
This course was taken by 22 students during the spring of 2015, and they have responded to written questionnaires for each of the seven activities. At the end of the semester course, 90 % of the students strongly agreed or agreed with five questions assessing the quality of the course.
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