Cutting Edge > Energy > Course Descriptions > Energy and the Environment

Energy and the Environment

Chris Sinton,
University of Redlands
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Summary


This course is designed to help students understand the earth energy system and the potential impact of human activity. Students are asked to gather and analyze data regarding energy generation, efficiency, and environmental impacts. The course focuses on quantitative analysis of energy systems, but also covers the socio-political and economic components.

Course URL:

Course Size:
15-30

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a 200-level course that has a mix of majors (environmental studies) and non-majors. It satisfies a science requirement for the majors. Class time is composed of a mix of lecture, in-class activities (such as Google Earth, discussions, etc.) and local field trips (power plants, hydropower systems).

Course Content:

This course covers the natural energy cycles on earth, specifically direct and indirect (wind, waves, biomass) solar resources. Historical energy use and conventional energy resources are presented, along with associated environmental problems such as air pollution and mining. Students investigate real-time air quality of Southern California. Field trips are designed to show students where electricity comes from. Three trips are normally taken: a gas-fired cogeneration plant on campus; a utility-scale gas power plant that uses recycled wastewater for cooling; and a small hydropower system.

Course Goals:

Over-arching Goals
1. Students will be able to understand the earth energy system and, therefore, understand the potential impact of human activity
2. Students will be able to gather and quantitatively analyze data regarding energy generation, efficiency, and environmental impacts.
3. Students will be able to make a connection between the technological aspects of energy/environment and the socio-political and economic components.
Ancillary Goals
1. Students will experience energy generation first hand
2. Students will be able to express an idea in a well-structured, coherent paragraph.
3. Students will be able to take a data set, make a complete plot with it, and interpret the results.

Course Features:

There are two major features; the field trips and the Energy Project. For the Energy Project, students use Kill-a-Watt meters to measure the electricity usage for a particular appliance, machine, or light. They then use Excel to calculate the annual usage, cost, and air emissions associated with the appliance. They then calculate the results of more efficient use of that machine at the individual level, campus level, and state-wide level.

Course Philosophy:


Assessment:

Exams 40% - a mid-term and final exam
Homework: 40% – eight homework assignments
Energy Project: 10%
Quizzes: 10% - three short quizzes given based on the assigned reading.

Syllabus:

Energy and the Environment syllabus (Microsoft Word 74kB May5 09)

Teaching Materials:


References and Notes:

Energy, Environment, and Climate - R. Wolfson


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