UVA Virtual Lab: Sustainable Energy Systems Class Homepage

"Introduction to Sustainable Energy Systems"

ENGR-1559 / GSVS-2050

Spring 2017

Instructor: John C. Bean

 

 

As individuals, we most often focus upon a single energy technology: One we particularly like (e.g., solar or wind), or one we particularly dislike (e.g., fossil fuel or nuclear).

And then we all start arguing (producing the "hot air" of the textbook's title).

At Bell Labs I researched semiconductor devices for fiber optic communications. These were kissing cousins to solar cells, and I got to know a lot of people in the solar cell field (including the founders of two U.S. solar energy companies). So, naturally, for me, that "single energy technology" was solar cells. But for years, my friends told me that "when the cost of cells falls below $X.YZ / Watt, they will take over the world!" And then they fell below that cost. And they did not take over the world. I was clearly missing something. So I began reading almost every article, paper and book on energy I could find. And I gradually figured out what was missing: Sustainable energy is not just about the component technologies, it's about how they fit together to create a complete energy system. Put another way, the individual technologies are only pieces of a much larger puzzle. And, frustratingly, many of those pieces still have shapes that are blurred, ill-defined, and/or changing with time.

But why not build an energy system based on just one "piece," for instance solar cells? Because, for now, no single "piece" can affordably produce the amount of energy we need, when we need it. To illustrate, say that solar cell efficiencies suddenly skyrocketed, and costs plummeted. Wouldn't that make an all-solar energy system possible? Yes, but only if you were willing to spend your evenings in the dark, either shivering or sweating. The problem? Solar cells require intense sunlight to produce energy, which only happens (with luck) near midday. But our power consumption peaks in the evenings. So for a solar-based energy system to work, we would also need an effective and affordable way of storing huge quantities of midday energy for many hours - a technology "piece" we do not yet have. Or, if you lived on the U.S. east coast, you might tap into solar cells on the west coast, where the solar peak comes three hours later. But this would require another missing technological piece: efficient and affordable long-distance power transmission lines. So, even with miraculously improved solar cells, we would still need other (miraculously improved) pieces to build an energy system. And without such miracles, it's more likely that we will need many different energy-producing pieces, and many different complementary energy storage/transmission/ . . . pieces.

In this class we will study the science and technology behind those energy "pieces" in an attempt to better define at least their present day shapes. And we will then explore ways in which such pieces might be fitted together to complete the much larger "puzzle" of a viable sustainable energy system.

THERE ARE NO PREREQUISITES FOR THIS CLASS (beyond normal high school physics and chemistry)

STUDENTS OF ALL UVA MAJORS ARE WELCOME

1ST YEAR STUDENTS ARE PARTICULARLY WELCOME

 

Course Memo

 

 

Discussions & Lectures:

Tuesday and Fridays, 2:00 - 3:15 PM,
Thornton Hall Room E-304

Textbook:

Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air
David J.C. MacKay, UIT Cambridge England, ISBN 978-0-9544529-3-3



Lecture Notes & Resource Webpages

Wk
Dates
Lecture Notes

Resources
Webpage

Lecture Notes
Resources
Webpage
1
Jan 20

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2
Jan 24, 27
3
Jan 31,
Feb 3
4
Feb 7, 10
Resources
5
Feb 14, 17
Resources
Resources
6
Feb 21, 24
7
Feb 28,
Mar 3
8
Mar 7, 10
Spring Break
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Spring Break
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9
Mar 14, 17
10
Mar 21, 24
Resources
11
Mar 28, 31

U.S. Power Consumption: Transportation

Heating Plant Tour at 3:45 pm (link)

Resources
12
Apr 4, 7
Your presentations on midterm research
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Your presentations on midterm research
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13
Apr 11, 14
Your presentations on midterm research
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Resources
14
Apr 18, 21
15
Apr 25, 28
16
May 2
Where Do We Go from Here?
(Cap & Trade / Carbon Tax?)
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Suggested Energy News Sources:

 


Homework Assignments

Written assignments are due in the Tuesday class unless otherwise noted

Wk
Date Due
Assignment
1
Jan 20
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2
Jan 24, 27

Read in Textbook: Chapters 1-3 (Motivation/Balance Sheet/Cars) AND Chapter A (Cars)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

3
Jan 31,
Feb 3

Read in Textbook: Chapters 4-5 (Wind/Planes) AND Chapters B-C (Wind/Planes)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

4
Feb 7, 10

Read in Textbook: Chapters 6-7 (Solar/Heating & Cooling) AND Chapters D-E(Solar/Heating)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

5
Feb 14, 17

Read in Textbook: Chapters 8-10 (Hydro/Light/Wind) AND Chapters F-G (Waves/Tide)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

6
Feb 21, 24

Read in Textbook: Chapters 11-13 (Gadgets/Wave/Food)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

7
Feb 28,
Mar 3

Read in Textbook: Chapters 14-15 (Tide/Stuff) AND Chapter H (Stuff)

Quiz:In class, on textbook chapters above PLUS bonus fourth question on mini-lecture: Prehistoric Nuclear Reactors? (quiz to then be graded on "two out of four ain't bad" basis)

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

8
Mar 7, 10
Spring Break
9
Mar 14, 17

Read in Textbook: Chapters 16-18 (Geothermal/Services/Renewables?)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

10
Mar 21, 24

Read in Textbook: Chapters 19-20 (Every Big/Transport)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

11
Mar 28, 31

Read in Textbook: Chapters 21-22 (Heating/Electricity)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: MIDTERM RESEARCH PAPER (click here for midterm cover sheet and instructions

12
Apr 4, 7

Read in Textbook: Chapters 23-24 (Fossil Fuels/Nuclear)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: MS PowerPoint file, via COLLAB Dropbox, PRIOR to April 4 class

You can use ONLY this for YOUR 5 MINUTE IN-CLASS MIDTERM PRESENTATION

(Presentations to be given April 4, 7, 11 - in student name order)

13
Apr 11, 14

Read in Textbook: Chapters 25-26 (Imported Energy/Fluctuations & Storage)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

14
Apr 18, 21

Read in Textbook: Chapters 27-28 (Plans/Perspective)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

15
Apr 25, 28

Read in Textbook: Chapters 29-30 (What to do/Plans)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: One page (single-spaced) analysis of recent Energy News article(s) of your choosing

16
May 2

Read in Textbook: Chapters 31-32 (Last thing/Saying Yes)

Quiz: In class, on textbook chapters above

Submit: Nothing

May 12

FINAL EXAM RESEARCH PAPER due no later than Friday May 12 at noon (date/time to be assigned, eventually, by the university) in Professor Bean's office (Thornton E-223)

CLICK HERE for final exam cover sheet and instructions