What you will study
This module explores each of the principal renewable energy sources in turn. Each technology is examined in terms of the relevant physical principles; the main technologies involved; their costs and environmental impact; the size of the potential renewable resource; and their future prospects.
Renewable energy is the core teaching text for this module, along with a specially designed set of online activities to help you apply the knowledge to practical examples in the field.
You will work through a series of online study guides that use material from the book, together with additional online resources, exercises and activities to cover the following topics:
- An introduction to renewable energy in the context of our primary energy needs – where you’ll gain an overview of the current status of renewable energy in the context of the world’s present primary energy situation.
- Solar thermal energy – provides a detailed overview of the physics of solar heat and how this may be captured in a variety of different ways, as well as the complex topic of passive solar heating.
- Solar photovoltaics – a structured introduction to this critical technology starting with the physics of crystalline silicon through to issues of integration and future prospects.
- Bioenergy – various bioenergy products and processes are illustrated with a range of practical examples examining the factors likely to affect uptake of bioenergy systems.
- Hydroelectricity – a critical look a small- and large-scale hydro in terms of their respective benefits and penalties.
- Tidal power – including barrages, lagoons and the rapidly emerging and potentially significant tidal current technologies.
- Wind energy – a detailed overview of a wide range of aspects of one of the fastest growing energy technologies globally that is set to become a major generator of electricity throughout the world.
- Wave energy – basic principles and detailed technology case studies and a review of the most promising future designs for this potentially significant global source of renewable energy.
- Geothermal energy – why it is treated as renewable even though it is being mined, its usage over the last century and its exciting future.
- Integrating renewable energy into energy systems – a detailed look at the conditions under which the various renewable energy sources can continue to make increasingly significant contributions to world energy needs.
You will also have access to an electronic version of the companion volume Energy Systems and Sustainability – Power for a Sustainable Future and a range of other study materials from our website.
If you are considering progressing to The engineering project (T452), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.
You will learn
By the end of the module you will be able to understand and describe the:
- basic principles underlying the design and use of renewable energy supply systems and their implications for energy sustainability
- main factors that determine the economic, social and environmental viability of the principal renewable energy systems.
You will also be able to:
- use appropriate scientific and mathematical techniques relevant to the assessment of renewable energy technologies in terms of their technical potential to contribute to energy supply
- critically assess the contribution that renewable energy technologies can make to the overall sustainability of energy systems at different scales
- undertake basic economic analyses of proposed or existing renewable energy projects using spreadsheet-based models of energy systems.
You may be interested in a professional career in the energy industry; or may be concerned about the sustainability problems associated with our current energy issues. This module will help you to:
- communicate scientific and technological aspects of a variety of renewable energy technologies
- find, critically evaluate and use current information on renewable energy technologies
- plan, monitor and evaluate progress in project work
- produce a project report on the technological and economic viability of a proposed renewable energy system
- interpret manufacturer’s specifications for renewable energy devices and systems.
The Open University is a Learning Affiliate Member of the Energy Institute.