When I was first asked to develop the Alternative Energy Course for the Skilled Trades Centre at Sheridan College, I took up the book “Photovoltaic Systems” by Dunlop.
This book focuses solely on photovoltaic (PV) systems and all of the topics pertinent to the PV industry. It is an excellent resource for anyone from complete beginner to professionals who want to close some gaps in their knowledge.
It begins with a round-up of history, applications, and the industry in general. I personally found reading this chapter to be a little dry and perhaps a little behind the times, but with the advantage of a few more years under my belt, I have come to recognize that the chapter is a good foundation for the rest of the book.
Technical, Operational & Regulatory Topics
The remaining 14 chapters cover technical, operational, and regulatory topics that are essential knowledge for a PV practitioner. The physics and technical subjects are universal of course and although the industry is racing ahead of the book with things like transformer-less inverters and bifacial solar panels, the book has proved to be a classic that I still refer to on occasion.
As regards the regulatory topics I again found the book to be invaluable. Your electrical code, for example, will have variances from the schema presented herein but the standards for North America are all here to raise your consciousness. Take these with you as you investigate the local requirements.
The same goes for the chapter on Permitting and Inspection. The depth of understanding provided here will not get you to your permits but it will clearly and concisely get you 80% of the way so that your local process will be an order of magnitude less painful.
The Business of Solar
The only real criticism is that the book does not cover the business side of the solar industry very well. This is a somewhat unfair criticism since the book is clearly aimed at the technical and practical aspects of the industry but my experience has taught me to ‘follow the money’.
People will talk about the virtues of solar but unless you, as a knowledgeable person, can demonstrate the economic advantages of owning a solar plant then you will be aiming at a microscopically small proportion of the population.
This book has all of the basic information you need and is an excellent giant first step into the solar world. It is readable for a technically inclined person and provides most of what you need to begin your solar journey.
When you’ve digested the parts of this book that fill in your knowledge gaps, your next journey will be to understand the very specific economic benefits that solar provides in your very specific part of the world. This is a ‘must-have’ reference book.
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