14:332:402 Sustainable Energy

Course Catalog Description: 

14:332:402 Sustainable Energy: choosing among options

The course is comprised of three parts:
• An introductory part that provides to a, hopefully diverse, technical student body “just in time” analysis tools such as energy formulas and physics, engineering economics, thermodynamics and sociopolitical analysis tools.
• A section of analysis of all the major non-renewable sources and
• A section of analysis of all the major renewable sources.

Pre-Requisite Courses: 

None. This course is multi-disciplinary, but a maturity level in science and engineering is necessary.

Pre-Requisite by Topic: 

None beyond senior level standing in any SOE department

Textbook & Materials: 

• Textbook: Jefferson W. Tester, Elisabeth M. Drake, Michael J. Driscoll, Michael W. Golay and William A. Peters: “Sustainable Energy: Choosing Among Options”, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005 ISBN 0-262-20153-4
• Power Point presentation handouts and lecture notes


• Internet resources to which students will be directed by the instructor such as the sites of, The World Bank, the Energy Information Administration, the World Research Institute, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change etc.
• If smart classroom is available, in-class internet searches for fast-changing technological and policy aspects relating to the material.

Overall Educational Objective: 

To demonstrate multi-disciplinary strategic thinking in a sustainable development context taking into account diverse constraints

Course Learning Outcomes: 

A student who successfully completes this course will
1. Understand the desirability of establishing sustainability in the context of energy generation
2. Appreciate the complexity of the problem and the interactions between the various components of the global ecosystem
3. Understand the tradeoffs between environmental impact, resource depletion and economic development
4. Understand the technical basics of each of the major non-renewable and renewable sources of energy.
5. Understand the extent of the environmental impact and resource depletion of each of the major non-renewable and renewable sources of energy.
6. Be able to apply this knowledge in gauging different options for specific scenarios.

How Course Outcomes are Assessed: 

  • HW Problems (15 %)
  • Two Mid-Term Exams (50 %)
  • Final Exam (35 %)

  • N = none S = Supportive H = highly related



    Proficiency assessed by

    (a) an ability to apply knowledge of Mathematics, science, and engineering


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (c) an ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (d) an ability to function as part of a multi-disciplinary team


    Lecture Discussions, HW

    (e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve ECE problems


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (g) an ability to communicate in written and oral form


    HW Problems, Lecture Discussions

    (h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of electrical and computer engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning


    HW, Lecture Discussions

    (j) a knowledge of contemporary issues


    HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussions

    (k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for electrical and computer engineering practice


    HW Problems, Exams,

    Basic disciplines in Electrical Engineering


    HW Problems, Exams

    Depth in Electrical Engineering


    Basic disciplines in Computer Engineering


    Depth in Computer Engineering


    Laboratory equipment and software tools


    Variety of instruction formats


    Lecture & office hour discussions, use of internet resources

Topics Covered week by week: 

Lectures 1-3: Introduction: Sustainable Energy; Defining Energy-Scientific and Engineering Foundations; Aspects of Energy Production and Consumption; National and Global Patterns of Energy Supply and Utilization; Environmental Effects of Energy - Confronting the Energy-Prosperity-Environmental Dilemma; Mathematical Representations of Sustainability.
Estimation and Evaluation of Energy Resources: Units of Measurement, Energy and Power; Comparison of Different Forms of Energy; The Energy Lifecycle; Estimation and Valuation of Fossil Mineral Fuels, Especially Petroleum; Lessons for Sustainable Development
Lectures 4-5: Technical Performance: Allowability, Efficiency, Production Rates: Relation to Sustainability; An Introduction to Methods of Thermodynamic Analysis; The Importance of Rate Processes in Energy Conversion; Chemical Rate Processes; The Physical Transport of Heat; Use and Abuse of Time Scales; Energy Resources and Energy Conversion.
Lectures 6-9: Local, Regional, and Global Environmental Effects of Energy: How Energy Systems Interact with the Environment; Adverse Environmental Effects Over Local and Regional Length Scales; Global Climate Change: Environmental Consequences over Planetary-Length Scales; "6 degrees can change the world"; Attribution of Environmental Damage to Energy Utilization; Methods of Environmental Protection; Environmental Benefits of Energy; Implications for Sustainable Energy
Lecture 10: Test 1
Lectures 11-12: Project Economic Evaluation: Introduction; Time Value of Money Mechanics; Current versus Constant-Dollar Comparisons; Simple Payback; Economy of Scale and Learning Curve; Allowing for Uncertainty; Accounting for Externalities; Energy Accounting; Modeling Beyond the Project Level.
Lecture 13: Energy Systems and Sustainability Metrics: Introduction and Historical Notes; Energy from a Systems Perspective; Systems Analysis Approaches; Measures of Sustainability; Drivers of Societal Change; Some General Principles of Sustainable Development
Lectures 14-15: Fossil Fuels and Fossil Energy: Introduction ; The Fossil Fuel Resource Base; Harvesting Energy and Energy Products from Fossil Fuels; Major Accidents: Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon; Environmental Impacts; Economics of Fossil Energy; Some Principles for Evaluating Fossil and Other Energy Technology Options; Emerging Technologies; Why Are Fossil Fuels Important to Sustainable Energy
Lectures 16-17: Nuclear Power: Nuclear History; Physics; Nuclear Reactors ; Nuclear Power Economics; Reactor Safety; Different Reactor Technologies; RBMK and the Chernobyl disaster; Advanced Reactors; Nuclear Power Fuel Resources; Fuel Cycle; Fusion Energy; Future Prospects for Nuclear Power
Lecture 18: Generally on Renewables: Introduction and Historical Notes; Resource Assessment; Environmental Impacts ; Technology Development and Deployment; The Importance of Storage; Connecting Renewables to Hydrogen; The Future for Renewable Energy.
Energy from Biomass : Characterizing the Biomass Resource; Biomass Relevance to Energy Production; Chemical and Physical Properties Relevant to Energy Production; Biomass Production: Useful Scaling Parameters; Thermal Conversion of Biomass; Bioconversion;
Environmental Issues; Economics; Enabling Research and Development; Disruptive Technology.
Lecture 19: Geothermal Energy: Characterization of Geothermal Resource Types; Geothermal Resource Size and Distribution; Practical Operation and Equipment for Recovering Energy; Sustainability Attributes; Status of Geothermal Technology Today; Competing in Today's Energy Markets; Research and Development Advances Needed; Potential for the Long Term
Lecture 20: Hydropower: Overview; Hydropower Resource Assessment; Basic Energy Conversion Principles; Conversion Equipment and Civil Engineering Operations; Sustainability Attributes; Status of Hydropower Technology Today.
Lecture 21: Test 2
Lecture 22: Wind Energy: Introduction and Historical Notes; Wind Resources; Wind Machinery and Generating Systems; Wind Turbine Rating; Wind Power Economics; Measures of Sustainability; Current Status/Future Prospects.
Lecture 23: Ocean Waves, Tide, and Thermal Energy Conversion: Introduction; Energy from the Tides; Energy from the Waves; Energy from Temperature Differences; Economic Prospects; Environmental and Sustainability Considerations; The Ocean as an Externalities Sink; Current Status and Future Prospects
Lecture 24: Solar Energy: General Characteristics of Solar Energy; Resource Assessment; Passive and Active Solar Thermal Energy for Buildings; Economic and policy issues; Solar Thermal Electric Systems-Concentrating Solar Power; Power tower-central receiver systems; Parabolic troughs; Dish systems
Lecture 25: Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems: Semiconductor device physics fundamentals
Lecture 26-28: Performance limits and design options; Silicon-based cells (crystalline and amorphous); Thin-film cells; Concentrator cells; Current status and future potential of PV; Economics of solar cell production; Sustainability Attributes; Prognosis

Computer Usage: 

Homework Assignments

Design Experiences: 

Homework assignments which have some design component and Final Project

Independent Learning Experiences : 

Homework involves information searches. Material is highly subject to updating and change; internet resources crucial.

Contribution to the Professional Component: 

(a) College-level Mathematics and Basic Sciences: 0.25 credit hours
(b) Engineering Topics (Science and/or Design): 1.5 credit hours
(c) General Education: 1.25 credit hours
Total credits: 3

Prepared by: 
Paul Panayotatos
May, 2011