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PSC110 Introduction to Renewable Energy

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Course Title and Instructor Information[edit]

PSC110 - Introduction to Renewable Energy Syllabus
Instructor Lonny Grafman (see contact details at User:Lonny)

Welcome[edit]

Welcome to PSC110 Introduction to Renewable Energy taught. This is a 3-credit summer course that aims to introduce, analyze and synthesize a variety of energy technologies. The course will attempt to place renewable energy in the context of current world energy policies and technologies.

Our high rate of energy consumption is based upon cheap, but finite and polluting, energy resources. To continue to meet our energy needs, many changes will need to take place. Most likely, there will not be just one answer. This course will examine the current state and possible future portfolios of energy supply, specifically focusing on renewable energies.

This summer course is being taught in Spain which offers an especially exciting context. During November 2009, Spain reached an impressive new record by meeting 45% of its electrical power demand from wind energy. This will be just one of the renewable energy technologies we examine.


Course Objectives[edit]

This course has no prerequisites. I expect that we will have a broad spectrum of energy backgrounds among the students entering the class. Whether you have never studied renewable energy, or you have previously worked in the field, the objects of the course are that students will understand:

  • basic science and terminology of energy technologies
  • various renewable energy technologies
  • the relation between energy policy and technology adoption
  • how to critically evaluate energy technology options
    • how to use back of the envelope calculations to quickly evaluate information

Grading[edit]

You are expected to attend and participate in all class sessions. You are expected to complete the assigned readings prior to coming to class, to do the homework assignments and the online writeup.

  • 40% Midterm and Final
  • 15% Participation/Attendance
  • 10% Small Research Writeup
  • 25% Class Assignments
  • 10% Group Project

Midterm and Final[edit]

The midterm and final are each 20 percent of your grade. There will be two quizzes. All class material may possibly be covered on the quizzes, but material that was covered in reading, lecture, activity and homework will definitely be on the exams. Each quiz will have a quantitative (basic math and science) and a qualitative (short answer) component.

Participation/Attendance[edit]

Participation consists of attendance (objective and randomly taken) and in class engagement (subjective) and makes up 15 percent of your grade. Coming to every class and participating in discussions is the easiest way to receive full credit for this portion. Two absences will have no affect on your grade. You will fail the class if you miss classes. Anything in between will take away some part of this 15% grade. If you must miss, contact me before hand for a makeup. Any attendance policy of the USAC program can supersede this agreement.

Small Research Writeup[edit]

The small research writeup makes up 10% of your grade. The field of renewable energy is quite large. We will be covering a subset of it. This assignment is an opportunity for you to study some other part that interests you, and to educate your peers and others about it. This writeup will be on Appropedia and probably viewed by hundreds of people. We will work together to come up with the style and suggested content. You will be graded based upon its quality and credibility.

Class Assignments[edit]

Assignments make up 25% of your grade. They will involve research into energy facts, policies and trends, as well as working with these researched values and units to quantify information and make calculations based upon known values. Many will be short (1/4 page) and some will be longer (excel sheet).

Group Project[edit]

The group project makes up 10% of your grade. The objective of the project is to synthesize the learning of the course. We will co-create this project. The project will be graded upon how well it meets our co-created criteria and how well it demonstrates synthesis.

Grade scale[edit]

The following grade ranges are associated with the corresponding letter grades. Note that while there is a B+, C+ and D+, institutionally there is no A+.

Percent and Letter Grade Percent and Letter Grade
  • 95.0-100% A
  • 90.0-94.9% A-
  • 87.5-89.9% B+
  • 82.5-87.4% B
  • 80.0-82.4% B-
  • 77.5-79.9% C+
  • 72.5-77.4% C
  • 70.0-72.4% C-
  • 67.5-69.9% D+
  • 62.5-67.4% D
  • 60.0-62.4% D-
  • 00.0-59.9% F

Late Assignments[edit]

The pace of this course will be very fast. No late assignments will be accepted.

Plagiarism and Cheating[edit]

Throughout this course the sharing of ideas will often be educationally useful. Part of my teaching philosophy is to encourage students to learn from one another and to help fellow students to learn.

Collaboration on coursework is authorized in this course provided that it is done in the spirit of mutual learning and sharing of ideas. When this occurs, you should indicate the names of all persons with whom you collaborated. The copying of someone else’s work or ideas and representing them as your own is unethical and prohibited. As in most, if not all issues involving ethical considerations, it may be hard to know where to draw the line. If you do not provide the names of your co-workers, I will presume the collaboration is copying, not mutual learning. If you do collaborate, it must be noted and you are still responsible for understanding all the material.

We will be abiding by UNR's policies (thank you to Ted Batchman, Ph.D. and Christopher A. Simon, Ph.D. for the content of this section from the UNR Student Handbook):

Subsection A - Definitions
Academic dishonesty is against university as well as the system community standards. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Plagiarism
defined as submitting the language, ideas, thoughts or work of another as one's own; or assisting in the act of plagiarism by allowing one's work to be used in this fashion.
Cheating
defined as (1) obtaining or providing unauthorized information during an examination through verbal, visual or unauthorized use of books, notes, text and other materials; (2) obtaining or providing information concerning all or part of an examination prior to that examination; (3) taking an examination for another student, or arranging for another person to take an exam in one's place; (4) altering or changing test answers after submittal for grading, grades after grades have been awarded, or other academic records once these are official.

Tentative Schedule[edit]

Below is a very tentative schedule. Some changes will occur before our first meeting as the summer schedule at the host university is set, and some changes will occur after our first meeting based upon collaborative design during our first day.

Day Topic
Week 1
1 Introduction, Expectations; What is Energy?
2 Prefixes and units; Power and energy
3 Conversions; Fossil fuels
4 Global energy consumption; Individual consumption
5 What is renewable energy?; Microhydro basics
Week 2
1 Microhydro design
2 Solar basics
3 Solar design and policies
4 Wind basics and policies
5 Other technologies; Midterm exam
Week 3
1 Storage and distribution
2 Portfolios; Policies; Pollution
3 Transportation and other technologies
4 Community and Synthesis
5 Presentations; Final exam

Changes to Syllabus[edit]

This course will be dynamic. We can make changes to this syllabus, and I expect we will during the first week.

Course Materials/Textbook[edit]

  • No textbooks will be required for this course. All readings will be online.
  • Basic calculator
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Eraser
  • Interest and engagement :)

Students with Disabilities[edit]

I encourage any student needing to request accommodations for a specific disability to please meet with me at you earliest convenience to ensure timely and appropriate accommodations.

Professional Ethics[edit]

Below are some URLs that provide useful information of the ASCE code of ethics for Professional Engineers and ethics for engineering and science.