Stanford University – Solar Cells Course Review

Solar Cells (XEIET132) is a course offered by Stanford University as part of their Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies Certificate. The goal of the course is to give the student a broad overview of solar photovoltaic technology. The instructor goes over the physical principles behind solar cells, different solar cell designs, and the economics of the technology.

Solar Cells (XEIET132) Stanford Course Review


Instructor. The instructor for this course was Mike McGehee, Professor of Material Science and Engineering. Professor McGehee has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Princeton, and a PhD in Material Sciences from UC Santa Barbara. Throughout the course, it was very clear that Professor McGehee has a tremendous amount of knowledge on solar cells. He clearly articulates the pros and cons of various solar cell designs, and gives relevant examples of companies that are utilizing them.

Professor McGehee’s teaching style is very to the point – and might be considered a little dry. He is not as animated or entertaining as some of the other instructors, but his amazing breadth and depth of knowledge more than makes up for it.

Quality of Course Delivery. This course was delivered online through Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development. The course itself is a series of lecture videos along with the accompanying slides. Each module had a test at the end of it, and the overall course had a final exam. In the past, the Stanford online portal had some issues with sound and video playback. However, those issues seem to have been resolved in this course.

One thing Stanford could do to improve the course delivery is to have a forum for students and the instructor to interact.

Quality of Course Content. Overall the course content was excellent. This course has been around for a few years, but Stanford did a full update of the material in 2017. The content went into detail on:

  • The science of solar cells
  • Silicon solar cells
  • Conventional thin-film solar cells
  • Third generation (multijunctional) solar cells
  • Organic solar cells
  • Comparison of the technologies and forecast for the future

As with any developing industry, information gets outdated very quickly – and we are glad that we got the most up-to-date material.

Final Recommendation. We strongly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in solar photovoltaic technology. Stanford has once again put together world class teaching materials, and delivered it in an effective manner.

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