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Jeffrey  Brownson

Jeffrey R. S. Brownson

814-867-4227 (MRL Building only)
Office Address: 
212 Hosler Building / 265 MRL Building
Associate Professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering
Solar Option Lead: iMPS Renewable Energy & Sustainability Systems
  • Solar Ecology: common patterns inherent in light management, light conversions, and energy transfer—from the materials physics to earth systems. A systems framework coupled with the dynamic context of locale (e.g. a regime of place/time)
  • Jointly Intentional Group Agency / Finite Repeated Cooperative Games: facilitating cycles of workshops/charrettes for research in stakeholder engagement catalyzing collective action, regenerative systems design, and resilient communities
  • Solar Utility: technoeconomic analyses of stakeholder preference/avoidance associated with distributed-, community-, and grid-supply solar project development
  • Solar Resource Assessment: combining ground and satellite methods to measure, describe, and inform forecasts of cloud regimes and climate regimes, to manage risk and maintain grid stability
  • Geographical Information Science (GIS): applied to power systems research, photovoltaic project development, solar farm operations & management, solar ecology planning
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison Ph.D. 2005 Environmental Chemistry & Technology
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison M.Sc. 2001 Geology
  • University of North Dakota B.Sc. 1999 Geology
  • Macalester College, St. Paul, MN 1992-1993 Alumnx with scholarship in Art, Music, Culture
Courses Taught: 
  • EME 526 Solar Utility and Portfolio Management (Spring 2018)
  • EME 810 Solar Resource Assessment and Economics (online) (Fall 2013-2018, Summer 2014) Open Educational Resource:
  • EGEE 597B Solar Energy Conversion (Spring 2010-2011, Fall 2011-12)
  • EGEE 597D Advanced Photovoltaics (Fall 2009)
  • EGEE 497 Solar Ecology and Stakeholder Engagement (Fall 2018)
  • EGEE 437 Design of Solar Energy Conversion Systems (Spring 2008 – present, Fall 2011– Fall 2013) Largest solar course in the nation for project development.
  • EME 301 Thermodynamics in Energy & Mineral Engineering (Fall-Spring 2014-2018) Emphasizing core engineering skills, language, and introduction to modern thermodynamics (non-equilibrium systems analysis, dissipative systems, entropy as energy dispersion, a
  • EGEE 494A Senior Research Project (Fall 2009-present) Supervising senior-level undergraduate research in energy science and engineering and preparation of written and oral presentation of the research results.
  • EM SC 474W Living with Sustainable Energy in a Global Society (Spring-Summer-Fall 2009)
  • EGEE 455 Materials for Energy Applications (Fall 2008, 2009)
  • EM SC 420 Energy in Modern Society [Co-taught with S. A. Blumsack] (Fall 2008)
  • EGEE 101 Energy and the Environment (Fall 2007)
John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering


I research solar engineering, economics, and energy science using tools of system dynamics modeling, technoeconomic analysis, and stakeholder engaged design to explore questions of photovoltaic power generation, and solar ecology ( I develop ground monitoring technologies for solar irradiance to better inform my modeling for system performance. My work with community-led solar is an example of real-world stakeholder engagement, facilitating workshops to guide decision making, systems design, and policy planning. My scholarly work has contributed to the National Association of Engineering’s Grand Challenge (USA): “Making Solar Energy Economical,” including 37 peer reviewed publications, 28 non-refereed/conference publications, 2 patents, 1 book chapter: System Integrated Photovoltaics (SIPV), (Routledge; 2012), and a 16-chapter textbook: Solar Energy Conversion Systems, (Academic Press; 2013). Speaking invitations at 25 events among civic, academic, and research audiences have been opportunities to share the potential for solar in jobs, education, and global industry growth. Locations include venues across the USA, Burkina Faso (Keynote Speaker, AfricaSolar 2015), China, Germany, Mexico, and the UAE. As conference chair, I also contributed the closing plenary for the 44th Meeting of the American Solar Energy Society (2015).

Research Projects: 

My skill to cultivate creative enterprise from small beginnings has grown in my time at Penn State. I published results of a short technoeconomic analysis of solar photovoltaics on medium-sized multi-tenant buildings, which included exploring solar goods and services as common pool resources (Brownson, Buildings 3 (2013), 659-673). Building rooftops have limited access and minimal distributed value for renting tenants seeking solar power. Shared solar projects developed offsite could offer power to residents in urban contexts. I hypothesized that an integrative design process (traditionally used for green buildings) would catalyze emergent community solar projects when co-produced by the community. I leveraged $56k in competitive funding from the Penn State ReInvention Fund to establish a living laboratory for a cycle of community engagement workshops in the State College-University Park area. “Community Solar on State” was a transdisciplinary co-creative workspace (in keeping with the use of “transdisciplinary” by the Belmont Forum and Future Earth). By 2018, two large community solar projects emerged from our work—2.6 MWdc community farm at the wastewater treatment authority and 2.0 MWdc on the University Park campus. These community-led solar projects began a new research arc into the role of workshops as finite repeated cooperative games, catalyzing the formation of locally-defined and locally-managed common pool resources. The open process and subsequent research arcs are documented at Academic outcomes included two Schreyer Honors theses, two conference presentations, an upcoming paper (in progress—assessing community-led solar and group agent-based impacts on outcomes using the model of finite repeated cooperative games), and a M.S. thesis.

My successes with integrative design, common pool resource management, and creative enterprise were leveraged again to guide and facilitate statewide workshops for “Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future,” a DoE SunShot Initiative project. In this ongoing effort, I was funded $50k (the sole academic partner within the core team). We applied the integrative design process among 500+ diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors. Stakeholders explored likely pathways for photovoltaics to support 10% of in-state electricity demand by 2030, an increase 10-fold greater than present values. Pathway exploration included evaluating strategies using system modeling of associated economic, environmental, and health impacts. The draft plan now includes strategies to incorporate community solar across the state (as well as residential/commercial and utility scale solar). The collective findings of all of these integrative design results were presented at the 4S 2018 Conference in Sydney, Australia (“Commons Wealth: Integrative Design Catalyzing Community Solar from Uni, to Muni, to State”).

Most recently, I have been part of a funded team for the NSF Research Traineeship program (Sr. Personnel), bringing my work in solar ecology together with landscape ecology and landscape architecture. The $3M funded proposal is “NRT-INFEWS: Landscape-U, Impactful partnerships among graduate students and managers for regenerative landscape design” (PI: E. Smithwick, PSU). I am eager to continue more transdisciplinary works.


See CV for full list. Abbreviated:

  • Srikrishnan, V., Young, G. S., Brownson, J. R. S. Skill and Skill Prediction of Cloud-Track Advection-Only Forecasting Under a Cumulus-Dominated Regime. J. Appl. Meteo. Clim. 2017, 56(3), 651-665. DOI:
  • Suh, J., Brownson, J. R. S. Solar Farm Suitability Using Geographic Information System Fuzzy Sets and Analytic Hierarchy Processes: Case Study of Ulleung Island, Korea. Energies. 2016, 9(8):648. DOI: 10.3390/en9080648.
  • Bayrakci, M., Calvert, K., Brownson, J. R. S. An automated model for rooftop PV systems assessment in ArcGIS using LIDAR. AIMS Energy (Special Issue: Remote sensing and Geoinformation Technology to Explore and Predict Renewable Energy Potential). 2015, 3(3), 401-420. DOI: 10.3934/energy.2015.3.401
  • Srikrishnan, V., Young, G. S, Witmer, L., Brownson, J. R. S. Using Multi-Pyranometer Arrays and Neural Networks to Estimate Direct Normal Irradiance. Solar Energy. 2015, 119, 531-542. DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2015.06.004
  • Kumpf, K. Blumsack, S. A., Young G. S., Brownson, J. R. S. Portfolio Analysis of Solar Photovoltaics: Quantifying the Contributions of Locational Marginal Pricing and Power on Revenue Variability. Solar Energy. 2015, 119, 277-285. DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2015.06.008
  • Brownson, J. R. S., Gardner, D., Nieto, A. Solar Resource-Reserve Classification and Flow-Based Economic Analysis. Solar Energy. 2015, 116, 45-55. DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2015.03.028
  • Brownson, J.R.S. Framing the Sun and Buildings as Commons. Buildings (Special Issue: Environmentally Conscious Architecture; invited author) 2013, 3, 659-673. DOI:10.3390/buildings3040659
  • Rayl, J., Young, G. S., Brownson, J. R. S. Irradiance co-spectrum analysis: Tools for decision support and technological planning. Solar Energy 2013, 95, 364-375, DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2013.02.029.
  • Choi, Y., Rayl, J., Tammineedi, C., Brownson, J. R. S. PV Analyst: a new tool for coupling GIS with solar energy simulation models to assess distributed photovoltaic potential in urban areas. Solar Energy. 2011, 85(11), 2924. DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2011.08.034.

Book: (2013, Academic Press)

Active publications:

Personal Page: Heliotactic Press:

  • 2014                 Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2012                 Faculty Marshal, EMS College Graduation
  • 2010                 Gladys Snyder Junior Faculty Grant
  • 2009                 CAUSE: Center for Advanced Undergraduate Study and Experience
  • Penn State Award supporting innovative research experiences