To have constructive conversations about the world's energy options, one needs to take a calm look at the numbers.... If the world is to move to a sustainable energy future, one that also limits the risk of global warming, each country will need to work out its own post-fossil-fuel energy plan. And the numbers will have to add up.... Countries [and states, towns, colleges, and individuals] that claim to be serious about creating an alternative energy future need to choose a plan, stop arguing and get building.
David J.C. MacKay, FRS (2009)

Course Goals

  1. Gain a solid understanding of the basic physics of energy and the science behind various energy technologies.
  2. Gain skills and experience performing and communicating quantitative analyses of energy generation and consumption.

Some specific topic areas, skills, and habits of mind to be emphasized include:

  1. Students will develop a set of benchmarks so as to have an intuitive feel for energy consumption, from the individual to the global.
  2. Numbers not adjectives! An energy plan has to add up.
  3. The emphasis will be on sustainable energy solutions that scale up. The energy problem is a big one, and so solutions need to be big.
  4. Students will gain skills and experience using spreadsheets to perform and present quantitative analyses.
  5. Students will also learn how to do basic but important financial calculations.

The main text for this course will be David MacKay's Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air. This book is available in hard copy and for free online at: http://www.withouthotair. It's an awesome book. We will also use a set of notes that I am writing.

Official Description

In this course students will learn content and skills so that they can participate effectively in sustainable energy projects, make personal and community decisions that reduce carbon emissions, and work in ventures in sustainable energy. Additionally, this course will be useful for those interested in energy and climate policy, either internationally or domestically. We will begin with a quick overview of current CO2 emissions levels and look at how this is related to energy use. We will then turn our attention to basic ideas from physics, including the definition of energy and the difference between energy and power. The bulk of the course will consist of a survey of different forms of energy consumption and generation. Throughout, we will quantitatively analyze technology from both a local and global point of view. For example, we will calculate how much electricity one can generate on a rooftop, and we will also examine the role that solar PV could play toward the goal of eliminating fossil fuel use worldwide. In a unit on financial mathematics, students will learn about the time value of money and several ways of quantifying investments, including ROI (return on investment) and IRR (internal rate of return). Students will apply these financial tools in several short case studies. If time permits, we may also cover negative emissions technologies and the electrical grid, including grid stability issues and the potential of smart-grid technology.

This will be a demanding, introductory, class. Evaluation will be based on weekly problem sets. Level: Introductory Prerequisites: None Class Limit: 30. Lab fee $5.00 Meets the following degree requirements: QR ES

Hours of Academic Engagement

You should expect to spend a minimum of 150 academically engaged hours associated with this one-credit course.