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University at Buffalo

Solar Energy and Electrical System Design

University at Buffalo and State University of New York via Coursera


This course supplies learners with the insights necessary for properly planning, and therefore successfully installing, a photovoltaic (PV) system per design specifications. It directs learners through the important steps of initial site inspection and evaluating appropriate locations for PV systems, and features unique elements of residential, small, industrial and utility-scale solar applications. The course probes key design concerns – including load, efficiency, and mechanical and electrical design – as well as aesthetics and tools for planning. Learners experiment with calculations needed to design a PV system, exercising newly gained knowledge about site selection, layout, code compliance, system components, and wire sizing. This course is targeted for engineers who have interest in entering the solar power sectors. It is also appropriate for HVAC installers, architects and building code inspectors. Learners should have a basic grasp of electrical engineering, physics and mathematical concepts. Those who are unfamiliar with how PV works, the elements of a PV system, and/or solar power ROI should take the first course of the specialization, Solar Energy Systems Overview. Material includes online lectures, videos, demos, hands-on exercises, project work, readings and discussions. This is the second course in the Solar PV for Engineers, Architects and Code Inspectors specialization. To learn more about the specialization, check out a video overview at


  • PV Design Basics
    • Learners will explore site inspection considerations, shade calculations, roof assessments, solar panel location and spacing, floodplains, power line and battery locations, circuit boxes, pros and cons of rooftop and ground-mounted systems, and considerations related to commercial and utility scale solar applications.
  • PV Design Considerations
    • Students will learn about system loads and efficiency, wind and weight loading, how to calculate the proper size for lag bolts, measuring excess capacity, and considerations related to ballast systems.
  • Electrical System Design
    • Students will learn about system sizing considerations and calculations.
  • Recommendation Options
    • Students will learn about aesthetics considerations and tools for PV planning
  • System Design Project: Theory to Practice
    • Students will apply their learning to perform system design calculations.

Taught by

Gay E Canough


4.7 rating at Coursera based on 657 ratings

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