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Renewable energy and energy efficiency are two main pillars of sustainable energy. Significant progress is being made in the transition from fossil fuels to more ecologically sustainable sources. The main features of the renewable sustainable energy module of the BA in Sustainable & Regenerative Living are as follows:

  • Integrates theory, laboratory skills, and a project-based learning experience
  • Focuses on solar PV technology and prepares students for the NABCEP exam
  • Has built-in internship opportunities available in 1MW solar array with storage on campus for those who qualify themselves
  • Emphasizes energy independence with decentralized supply
  • Showcases the ecologically beneficial interrelation between solar energy and EVs
  • Prepares you for a career in renewable energy supply and EV transportation, e.g. Solar Thermal Energy, Solar PV Installation, PV Technical Sales, EV Technical Support

Prerequisite Course

This course explores the role energy plays in sustainability and in the development of complexity and order in nature and in the human economy. Anything of economic value comes from nature or from humans, and both require energy. Therefore, energy is critical to the economy. Energy inevitably loses usefulness as it flows through man-made and natural systems. Sustainability is about regeneration and renewal of opportunity for future generations. Therefore, renewable sources of energy are essential for sustainability. Students will learn basic energy concepts and their application to sustainability and renewable energy systems. The course will include lecture, readings, films, guest
speakers, field trips, and hands-on work. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)

Renewable energy module courses

Focus on heating fundamentals and energy efficient heating systems for residential and 
small-scale industry. Topics include: 1) Thermal acumen – heat pump driven home boilers, types of combustion boilers, analysis of losses, boiler efficiency calculations; 2) Sustainable insulation – insulation-types and application, economic thickness of insulation, heat savings, and application criteria; 3) Micro-turbine – definition, needs, applications, advantages of cogeneration, its classifications, saving potentials. Heat balance, micro-turbine efficiency, waste heat recovery; 4) Energy efficient construction, which combines building enclosure efficiency and passive solar strategies in a system for designing and building cost effective, comfortable, energy-efficient
 buildings. Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)
Science of photovoltaic (PV). Theory and laboratory skills are emphasized. Topics include: 1) Math and physics that are suitable and understandable to those without an engineering degree but necessary for understanding solar PV; and 2) Solar energy fundamentals including the optics of solar energy collection, solar cell physics, various cell semiconductor manufacturing techniques, and PV module fundamentals. Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability or consent of instructor. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)
Electricity fundamentals through doing. Instruction and guidance provided on the spot in the lab. An introduction course to the essential knowledge of electricity and its applications related to renewable energy. Students will be exposed extensively and intensively to the nuts and bolts of the electrical world. Topics include: 1) Fundamental concepts of electricity, including basic mathematics, physics principles, safety, network analysis of DC circuits, electrical conductors and wiring techniques, as well as batteries; and 2) Conversion techniques including, electromagnetism and magnetic circuits, introduction to AC circuits, inductance, capacitance, inductive and capacitive
reactance, DC generators and motors, and synchronous and induction machines. Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)

This course explains the fundamentals of energy storage, conversion, inversion, and distribution by exploring EV energy systems. Topics include 1) Fundamentals of energy storage and conversion such as electrochemistry, thermodynamics, and regeneration through braking; 2) Conversion techniques: Electro-magnetism and magnetic circuits, introduction to AC circuits, inductance, capacitance, inductive and capacitive reactance, DC generators and motors, synchronous and induction machines. Course project involves practice in electrical storage dynamics through examination of an actual EV drive train, to understand its functionality, safety standards and the diagnosis of problems. Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability or with the consent of the professor. Course fee: $50 (4 credits)

Three types of solar energy applications: conventional social thermal, solar thermal ported heat pump CHP applications, and solar PV. Theory and laboratory skills are emphasized. Topics include: Safety fundamentals, PV module fundamentals, system sizing principles, system mechanical design, system electrical design, system components, maintenance and troubleshooting, and performance analysis. Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability. Course fee: $50 (4 credits)
This course helps students to better understand the use and integration of renewable energy sources in eco-communities. Topics include: 1) Localized group of electricity sources and loads, sizing cables and selecting over-current devices to supply power to the users from sustainable sources such as a solar array; 2) The EV as a movable micro-grid; an expose of micro-grid principles; 3) Common features of energy storage mechanisms between EV and micro-grid/off-grid systems (à la Amory Lovins-RMI). Prerequisite: SLE-101 Energy and Sustainability or with the consent of the professor. Course fee: $50 (4 credits)

Featured Faculty

Ralph Hearn, BSEE, MScEng.

Professor Hearn is an inventor and researcher in sustainable energy with over 20 years of experience. He is a former senior scientist in the development of EV1 for the General Motors Corporation.

More about Ralph Hearn

Student builds a solar thermal water heater

Kristina Vitale decided to build a solar thermal water heater as part of her sustainable energy class. By the end of the class, she said, “I’m really happy with the collector’s performance. On a 50° day with limited sun exposure, I was able to heat the water in the tank to 91° after several hours.” This video follows Krsitina through the formation of her idea, the development of her plan, and the completion of her project.

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