This multidisciplinary introductory course in energy systems offers students an opportunity to obtain a sound scientific, technological, and economic understanding of our modern energy system and the challenge of energy sustainability. The course focuses on three primary sectors of the energy economy: building systems, the electric grid and electric power generation, and transportation. Quantitative analysis will be applied to understand these engineering and economic challenges, introducing and reinforcing the fundamental concepts of energy, work, thermodynamics, and electricity and magnetism. A systems perspective will guide understanding of extraction of primary energy, conversion into fuels and electricity, significant energy end-uses, and energy losses. Sustainability and resiliency concepts will be discussed including net energy/exergy analysis and life cycle assessment, energy-related emissions, decentralized generation, smart grids, district heating, and net zero energy facilities.

Course Objectives

This course is about becoming familiar with our energy system, from extraction to use, and understanding the science, technology, and policy that drives it. The overarching course learning objective is an ability to evaluate energy proposals for the electric grid, buildings, transportation, and industry by applying the following skills:

  • Using proper terminology and units, estimate energy quantities and properties from intuition
  • Apply elementary principles of energy conversion to determine process efficiency
  • Develop a systems design from elementary energy conversion processes
  • Evaluate the economics, including capital and operational expenses and total cost
  • Understand how public policy affects the economics and societal impacts
  • Identify systematic ways to improve resilience of energy infrastructure
  • Describe environmental and health effects of our energy system

This table of energy conversion processes will be used throughout the course study energy systems.