Sustainable energy - the Australian setting

Course code GENG1600Units 10Level 1000Faculty of Engineering and Built EnvironmentSchool of Engineering

What would it take for Australian society to function entirely without fossil fuels? It's often stated that "huge amounts of renewable energy are available" - wind, solar, wave, and so forth. But our current energy consumption is also huge. We need to know how one "huge" compares with the other. We need numbers, not adjectives. This course shows how to estimate the numbers, and what those numbers depend upon.

The motivations for sustainable energy are first considered: finite fossil fuel resources, climate change and energy security. The bulk of the course, however, is devoted to developing a simple quantitative framework for determining which energy proposals "add up" for Australia, with all major sustainable energy sources considered: wind, solar, hydroelectricity, wave, tide, biofuels, geothermal, and nuclear. Ways to reduce consumption are investigated, including better transport, and smarter heating/cooling. A range of energy plans for Australia are investigated, making clear the size of changes that society must undergo in order to function without fossil fuels.

Available in 2014

Callaghan CampusSemester 2
On-Line from CallaghanSemester 2
Previously offered in 2013, 2012, 2011
ObjectivesOn completion of this course, students will:

1) understand the key drivers behind increasing demand for sustainable energy sources: finite fossil fuel resources, climate change, and energy security

2) be experienced at using common units of energy (kWh), power (kW), and energy per-day per-person (kWh/d/p)

3) be familiar with the major categories of end-uses of energy (transport, residential, commercial, manufacturing and construction, agriculture and mining), and typical energy costs of these uses computed on a per-day per-person basis

4) be familiar with a broad variety of the conceivable sustainable energy sources in Australia (including wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic (PV), hydroelectricity, wave, tide, biofuels, geothermal and nuclear)

5) be able to estimate the energy conceivably available from sustainable sources in Australia, as well as the present usage (computed on a per-day per-person basis); and

6) have developed the ability to quantitatively assess sustainable energy technologies, and appreciate the challenges and implications of eliminating the use of fossil fuels
ContentIn this course we progressively build a pair of red and green stacks representing, respectively, the average energy use of a typical moderately affluent person, and all conceivable sustainable energy sources. Both energy use and sustainable energy sources are computed on a per-person per-day basis, in an Australian setting. The comparable height of the stacks at the end of Part 1, and the resources required to achieve this end, will determine the answer to our question "Can we conceivably live without fossil fuels?"

In Part 2, the height of the red stack is reduced through better transport, and better heating and cooling. The green stack is also revisited by considering carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy.

An indicative outline for the proposed course is shown below:

Part 1: Numbers, not adjectives

1 Motivations; The balance sheet
2 Energy and power
3 Solar4 Cars and planes
5 Lighting and gadgets
6 Hydroelectricity; Geothermal
7 Wind; Wave; Tidal
8 Can we live on sustainable energy?

Part 2: Making a difference

9 Better transport
10 Smarter heating and cooling11 Carbon capture and storage; Sustainable fossil fuels; Nuclear energy
12 Fluctuations and storage; Energy plans for Australia;
Replacing Course(s)Not applicable
TransitionNot applicable
Industrial Experience0
Assumed KnowledgeThere is no assumed knowledge for this course.
Modes of DeliveryDistance Learning : IT Based
Internal Mode
Teaching MethodsLecture
Assessment Items
Examination: Take Home
Quiz - On-line
Contact HoursLecture: for 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term
Tutorial: for 1 hour(s) per Week for 11 weeks
Timetables2014 Course Timetables for GENG1600