Solar Power 101 - Self Study


Author: Scott Sklar

Subjects: Solar: Energy Finance, Solar: Design and Installation

Length: 4 modules

Student Rating

Rating: 9.1/10 (view ratings)
717 students have taken this course


Welcome to solar! Enroll in this training to learn about solar technology, the business, finance, technical and engineering sides of solar, and the emerging renewable energy market.

Learning Objectives

Ready To Sign Up Today? Click Here to Enroll

Self Paced Online Course

This is a self-study, self-paced online course. You can begin instantly upon enrollment and complete the course materials on your own pace.

Access Information and Build Your Training Library

After enrolling, the course materials will remain in your account and be accessible 12 months (1 year) after enrollment. Access can be extended beyond 1 year with a monthly membership. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world.

Earn A Certificate of Completion

When you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

Scott Sklar is a walking encyclopedia of American renewable energy.

- Amory Lovins, Co-Founder, Rocky Mountain Institute

Overall, Solar Power 101 is a great introduction to those interested in gaining knowledge or pursuing a career/business in renewable energy, specifically solar. I gained a lot of insights and enjoyed it.

- Alex Marron, Motorola

Very enjoyable course that helped me bring together a lot of information picked up over many years in different industries and brought that info up to date with the latest developments in solar.

- John Cutler, New Grid Networks

+ Read more student ratings and reviews for this course


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Scott Sklar

President, The Stella Group

Scott Sklar runs a clean energy technology optimization and strategic policy firm, The Stella Group, Ltd, which he founded in 1995 and came on full time to lead in 1999. The firm facilitates clean distributed energy projects for commercial, industrial, and military applications. The firm specializes in blending technologies and financing projects, as well as assisting...[more]

Course Outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This is a free course. We take pride in our free courses, but keep in mind that this is only a taste of what we do in a full HeatSpring course. The course discussion board is a great place to interact with other students and ask questions. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Introduction to HeatSpring (1 minute) (Video) preview
Module 1 - Introduction to Solar and Renewable Energy and Regulatory Considerations

Topics for this week include: basic information on solar technology, resources, and studies on renewable energy and solar energy, an overview of energy markets, federal, state, and local government energy policies and programs.

  • Lecture 1 - Renewable Energy Introduction and Context (54 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 1 (Download .pdf)
  • Lecture 2 - "State-Federal-Local Jurisdictional Issues in the Energy and Environmental Arenas" (40 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 2 (Download .pdf)
  • "Solar power could be world’s main energy source by 2050" - Fortune (September 2014) (Resource)
  • "DOE report: 2.5% solar will cut utility earnings by about 4%" - Utility Dive (September 2014) (Resource)
  • Interstate Renewable Enery Council (IREC) - 2015 Annual Trends Report (Resource)
  • Recent Renewable Energy Publications from Lawrences Berkeley Laboratory's Electricity Markets & Policy Group (Resource)
  • "50 Dirtiest U.S. Power Plants Huge Contributor to Carbon Emissions" - EcoWatch (September 2014) (Resource)
  • Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) (Resource)
  • "On-Bill Financing: Cost-Free Energy Efficiency Improvements" - National Conference of State Legislatures (Resource)
  • "UN: New renewables broke through 100GW barrier in 2014" - BBC (March 2015) (Resource)
  • New Energy Outlook 2015 - Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Resource)
  • "IEA warns of ballooning world fossil fuel subsidies" - Reuters (October 2011) (Resource)
  • "Renewable Energy Could Contribute to U.S. Electricity Needs, Yet Challenges Remain" - National Research Council (June 2009) (Resource)
  • "Companies Unplug From the Electric Grid, Delivering a Jolt to Utilities" - Wall Street Journal (September 2013) - Subscription required (Resource)
  • "Fact Sheet: Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency" - Environmental and Energy Study Institute (November 2015) (Resource)
Module 2 - Introduction to Solar Engineering

Topics for this week include: An introduction to solar technology, photovoltaics, hybrid systems, net metering, and energy storage.

  • Lecture 1 - Photovoltaic Systems Overview (42 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 1 (Download .pdf)
  • Lecture 2 - Grid Intertied and On-Site Generation: The Big and Small Picture (49 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 2 (Download .pdf)
  • Florida Solar Energy Center (Resource)
  • North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (Resource)
  • North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) (Resource)
  • Solar Pathfinder (Resource)
  • Solmetric (Resource)
  • NREL's PVWatts Calculator (Resource)
  • Homer Energy (Resource)
  • HelioScope (Resource)
  • Polysun (Resource)
  • Amerian Solar Energy Society (ASES) (Resource)
  • Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) (Resource)
  • "Hacker, Terrorist Threats Spur Bases to Build Power Grids" - Wall Street Journal (Oct. 2014) - Subscription required (Resource)
  • "Americans are buying less electricity. That’s a big problem for utilities." - Washington Post (Dec. 2013) (Resource)
  • "Report: More Wind & Solar = Reliable Grid" - AgWired (April 2013) (Resource)
  • "NREL Calculates Emissions and Costs of Power Plant Cycling Necessary for Increased Wind and Solar in the West" - National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) - Sept. 2013 (Resource)
  • "Small Generator Interconnection Agreements and Procedures" - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - (Nov. 2013) (Resource)
  • "Interconnection of Distributed Generation to Utility Systems" - Regulatory Assistance Project (Sept. 2011) (Resource)
  • "Warren Buffett Puts Wind in Berkshire’s Sails" - Wall Street Journal (Oct. 2014) - Subscription required (Resource)
  • Detailed Summary Maps - DSIRE (Resource)
  • Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST) - National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (Resource)
  • System Advisor Model - National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (Resource)
  • Energy Access Review - EED Advisory Consultants (Resource)
  • "New Report Presents Five Key Principles for Developing Off-Grid and Mini-Grid Energy Policies" - Sierra Club (Oct. 2014) (Resource)
Module 3 - Photovoltaic System Issues and Introduction to Solar Finance

Topics for this week include: Power purchase agreements (PPAs), leasing, lending, the state of the art, environmental drivers, the Clean Air Act, climate change, and funds.

  • Lecture 1 - Photovoltaic System Issues (41 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 1 (Download .pdf)
  • Lecture 2 - PV Financing (36 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 2 (Download .pdf)
  • "EarthSpark Expands Haiti's First Pre-Pay Solar Microgrid" - Haiti Innovation (May 2015) (Resource)
  • "Six Months of Solar-Powered Smart Grid...And Counting!" - EarthSpark (Nov. 2015) (Resource)
  • PV*SOL - The Solar Design Company (Resource)
  • "U.S. Energy Storage Monitor" - Q2 2015: Executive Summary - GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association (ESA) - Sept. 2015 (Resource)
  • "Solar Leases Will Drive Solar Home Growth to $5.7B" - Forbes (Feb. 2013) (Resource)
  • "Innovations and Opportunities in Energy Efficiency Finance" - Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (May 2012) (Resource)
  • "Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (“QECBs”) & New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (“New CREBs”)" - U.S. Department of Energy (Resource)
  • "IRS to Allocate Nearly $1.4 Billion in New CREBs Volume Cap" - McGuireWoods (Feb. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Overview of the USDA Rural Utilities Service Guaranteed Loan Program" - Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR) (Resource)
  • "State Implementation Plans" - EPA (Resource)
  • "A Deeper Look into Yieldco Structuring" - Marley Urdanick, NREL (Sept. 2014) (Resource)
  • "Renewable Energy Project Financing: Impacts of the Financial Crisis and Federal Legislation" - NREL (July 2009) (Resource)
  • "Quick Guide: Power Purchase Agreements" - U.S. Department of Energy (Resource)
  • "Financing Renewable Energy in Developing Countries" - UNEP (Feb. 2012) (Resource)
  • "A Tale of Two Renewable Energy Project Finance Worlds" - Breaking Energy (June 2012) (Resource)
Module 4 - Storage, Interconnection, and Microgrids

Topics for this week include: Codes and standards (UL, NABCEP, SRCC), local permitting studies, house value studies, remote diagnostics, quick deploy systems, modular and inter-operable systems, aesthetics, and blending with high-value energy efficiency and other renewables.

  • Lecture 1 - Integration Issues: Microgrids and Community Grids (1 hour 2 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 1 (Download .pdf)
  • Lecture 2 - Sklar's Top 10 PV Points (27 minutes) (Video)
  • Presentation slides for Lecture 2 (Download .pdf)
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commision (FERC) Policy Statement on the Smart Grid (2009) (Resource)
  • "Designing Resilient Electrical Distribution Grids—R&D Challenges" - Los Alamos National Laboratory (Resource)
  • Federal Smart Grid Task Force (Resource)
  • "How to Build a More Resilient Electric Grid" - Scientific American (Nov. 2012) (Resource)
  • Resilient Electric Infrastructures - Sandia National Laboratories (Resource)
  • "Importance of a Distribution Management System (DMS) in Grid Modernization" - Microgrid Knowledge (Oct. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Renewable Energy Economic Potential" - NREL (July 2015) (Resource)
  • 2014 Renewable Energy Data Book (NREL) (Resource)
  • "More Than Half of US States Are Studying or Changing Net Metering Policies" - Greentech Media (Nov. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Energy Storage Industry Gaining Momentum" - New York Times (Oct. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Some energy storage already cost competitive, new valuation study shows" - Utility Dive (Nov. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis" - Lazard (Nov. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Move Over Solar, Time to Welcome Industrial Energy Efficiency: Pew Report" - (Oct. 2015) (Resource)
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Interactive Map of Cooperative Solar (Resource)
  • "Community solar investors could qualify for federal tax credits, IRS ruling indicates" - Utility Dive (Sept. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Vermont Introduces Community Solar Financing" - (Nov. 2015) (Resource)
  • "Smart Grids Moving Toward Open Source Development" - Nextek Power Systems (Feb. 2013) (Resource)
  • Nextek Power (Detroit, Michigan) - Power Server Module (Resource)
Feedback and Additional Resources

This is our last module but you still have access to the all of course materials for 12 months (1 year), so keep working and you'll be able to use this module to print your certificate of completion and submit survey feedback when you are done. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership. Enjoy the course and keep in touch!

  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey (Survey)
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate (Certificate)

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