Texas A&M at Qatar students learn about solar energy through hands-on experiencesPublished Dec 04, 2018
Electrical and computer engineering students at Texas A&M University at Qatar recently visited the solar panels on the roof of the branch campus’s building in Education City as part of Dr. Robert Balog’s course on photovoltaic energy. Associate professor Balog created the course based on a graduate-level course he teaches at Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station, Texas (USA). The course starts with the physics of the sun as the source of energy, how that energy gets to the Earth’s surface, and how photovoltaics, or “solar panels,” convert that energy from the sun into electricity. Emphasis is placed on understanding how the climate and geographic location of Qatar effects the performance of solar energy systems.
As part of the course, the students also visited the QEERI outdoor test facility. Balog explains the reasoning that if students get to see actual hardware, installed and operating, it will help solidify the concepts learned in the lecture. An aspect of the course uniquely developed for Qatar is an experiential learning module in which the students take home a special meter to measure insolation (solar irradiance) and log multiple days of data, which were then analyzed in class. The measurements were repeated in September and November so the students could compare how the available energy changes as the seasons change. The data is also being used as part of the final course project in which students design a solar energy system for their own home, taking into account electrical energy consumption.