Solar energy conversion requires a different mind-set from traditional energy engineering in order to assess distribution, scales of use, systems design, predictive economic models for fluctuating solar resources, and planning to address transient cycles and social adoption. Solar Energy Conversion Systems examines solar energy conversion as an integrative design process, applying systems thinking methods to a solid knowledge base for creators of solar energy systems. This approach permits different levels of access for the emerging broad audience of scientists, engineers, architects, planners, and economists. Traditional texts in solar energy engineering have often emerged from mechanical or chemical engineering fields. Instead, Solar Energy Conversion Systems approaches solar energy conversion from the perspectives of integrative design, environmental technology, sustainability science, and materials science in the wake of amazing new thin films, polymers, and glasses developed by the optoelectronics and semiconductor industries. This is a new solar text for the new generation of green job designers and developers. It’s highlighted with vignettes that break down solar conversion into useful stories and provides common points of reference, as well as techniques, for effective estimation of evolving technologies. 

Key Features

  • Contextualizes solar conversion for systems design and implementation in practical applications
  • Provides a complete understanding of solar power, from underlying science to essential economic outcomes
  • Analytical approach emphasizes systems simulations from measured irradiance and weather data rather than estimations from "rules of thumb"
  • Emphasizes integrative design and solar utility, where trans-disciplinary teams can develop sustainable solar solutions that increase client well-being and ecosystems services for a given locale


The SECS text is designed for a new 3rd-4th year undergraduate solar course or an introductory graduate course in solar energy engineering and the science of solar materials and technologies.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 01. Introduction
    • Abstract
    • Design Concept
    • Instructional Approach
    • Suggested Course Schedule with Text
    • Communication of Units and A Standard Solar Language
  • Chapter 02. Context and Philosophy of Design
    • Abstract
    • A Rationale and History for Design of SECS
    • Systems and Patterns
    • Systems Design
    • The Ethics of Sustainability
    • Ecosystem Services
    • Limitations of the Goal
    • Problems
    • Recommended Additional Resources
  • Chapter 03. Laws of Light
    • Abstract
    • Light is A Pumping System
    • SECS and Light
    • Light is Directional
    • Light is Spectral
    • Light Decreases with Distance
    • Four Laws of Light
    • Kirchoff’s Law
    • Wien’s Displacement
    • Planck’s Law
    • Stephan-Boltzmann Equation and Fractions of Radiation
    • Problems
    • Recommended Additional Reading
  • Chapter 04. Physics of Light, Heat, Work, and Photoconversion
    • Abstract
    • Breakthrough: Not Light or Heat—Both
    • Light for a Caloric Response
    • Materials in Energy Conversion Systems
    • Selective Surfaces and Graybodies: Opaque
    • Radiative Exchange for One Surface
    • Radiative Exchange for Two Surfaces
    • Reflectivity and Reflectance for Semi-transparent Materials
    • Problems
    • Recommended Additional Reading
  • Chapter 05. Meteorology: the Many Facets of the Sky
    • Abstract
    • Air Masses
    • The Sky as Multiple Climate Regimes
    • No Sky Model
    • Blackbody Accounting (No Sky Cover)
    • A Change of Variables: 0–100 Round Numbers
    • Blackbody + Graybody Accounting (no sky cover)
    • Graybody Accounting with A Cover
    • Graybody Accounting


No. of pages:
© 2014
Academic Press
eBook ISBN:
Print ISBN:

About the author

Jeffrey Brownson

Jeffrey R. S. Brownson, Associate Professor of Energy & Mineral Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering; Solar Option Lead: iMPS Renewable Energy & Sustainability Systems, The Pennsylvania State University

Affiliations and Expertise

Associate Professor of Energy & Mineral Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering; Solar Option Lead: iMPS Renewable Energy & Sustainability Systems, The Pennsylvania State University


"...distinguishes itself by addressing the readers of diversified disciplines in a simple way by moving more complex mathematics out to associated user-friendly computer programs." --Energy Technology, Solar Energy Conversion Systems

"...Elsevier Science and Technology Books...has published three books about solar energy...masterworks from world-renowed experts who have championed solar energy for decades...Solar Energy Conversion Systems,...Solar Energy Engineering,...and Solar Energy Markets", September 2014