14:332:402 Sustainable Energy: choosing among options

Course catalog description: The course is comprised of three parts: an introductory part that provides just-in-time analysis tools from engineering economics,  thermodynamics, and sociopolitical analysis; a part dealing with all the major nonrenewable energy sources and technologies; and a part analyzing all major renewable energy sources and technologies.

Credits and contact hours: 3 credits; 1 hour and 20-minute session twice a week, every week

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

Co-Requisite courses: None

Topics Covered:

  • IntroductionSustainable 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
  • 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. 
  •  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
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • Fossil Fuels and Fossil EnergyIntroduction; 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
  • 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
  • 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;
  • 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  
  • Hydropower: Overview; Hydropower Resource Assessment; Basic Energy Conversion Principles; Conversion Equipment and Civil Engineering Operations; Sustainability Attributes; Status of Hydropower Technology Today. 
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • 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
  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems: Semiconductor device physics fundamentals
  • 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

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.

Other supplemental material: Power Point presentation handouts and lecture notes.