Tremendous efforts have been made to develop different alternative energy technologies in response to the increasing shortage of fossil fuels and the increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Solar energy offers the potential to provide a clean, reliable, and more sustainable energy future. With the cost reductions in photovoltaic (PV) technology and installment, solar power is rapidly growing and becoming increasingly affordable. In the report ‘Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World’, the United Nation predicts that 6.3 million solar PV jobs worldwide will be expected by 2030 . The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2014 found that the solar industry continues to exceed growth expectations, adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the rate of the overall economy . Several countries have reported a ‘skills gap’ that exists between the current workforce and the needs of the PV industry . This paper describes the efforts in closing the ‘skills gap’ by educating engineering students through the development of the project for the course titled ‘Photovoltaic Systems’. The aim of the course project is to provide students with hands-on skills and practical knowledge that will enable them to succeed in the field of solar PV.
“Development of a Photovoltaic Emergency Power System for a Hospital in Malawi” was selected as the course project in the fall of 2012, as requested by an American doctor working in Malawi. The goal of the project was to specify, design, implement, and test a stand-alone solar PV system which supplies electric power in an emergency situation. Students were able to refine system requirements, determine the energy produced by the solar panels based on the solar radiation for different tilt and azimuth angles, and properly size the system. In the fall of 2013, the system was successfully installed in the Embangweni hospital in Malawi. Since then, it has operated smoothly. The details of the development of the course project will be presented in the paper along with both formative and summative assessment of the outcomes of the project.
1. ‘Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World’ UNEP/ILO/IOE/ITUC, September 2008
2. ‘National Solar Jobs Census 2014, The Solar Foundation, available at: www.tsfcensus.org’
3. ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs’ International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Abu Dhabi, 2013.
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