Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Philip C Malte
Seattle Campus

Energy and Environment II

Introduction to renewable energy. Principles, practices, and trends of solar, wind, hydro, and biomass (including fuel cell) energy conversion. Reductions in the environmental impact of energy conversion. Offered: jointly with M E 342/CHEM E 342/PHYS 342; W.

Class Description

This course introduces the student to renewable energy. Given the mounting evidence for human-caused global climate change, it is important to study energy solutions for a greenhouse planet. Renewable energy is one solution. In this course, the student learns about solar energy, wind energy, energy from the motion of water, and energy from biomass. For each of these, the student learns about the energy resource, and how to assess the amount of energy available from the resource – an example is the amount of solar energy falling on an array of solar collectors each month of the year. The student then is introduced to the technologies used to collect the renewable energy and convert it into thermal or electrical energy. The student learns about the fundamental principles of the different technologies, practical applications of the technologies, and their costs. With the knowledge gained in this course, the student should be able to estimate the amount of energy available from the renewable energy resource, the efficiency and power output of renewable energy systems, and the social benefits and costs.

The course is divided into seven units: 1) Understanding sunlight and the energy it provides. 2) Solar thermal technologies, including solar water heating for domestic hot water and space heating, solar drying of crops, and solar thermal electric systems for the generation of electricity. 3) Solar energy used passively for the heating of homes and buildings. 4) Electricity generated directly from the sun: solar photovoltaic (PV). 5) Wind energy, including the wind resource, wind turbine principles, practical wind turbines and applications, and trends in the use of wind energy. 6) Energy from the motion of water, including hydroelectric, wave energy, and tidal energy. For each, the resource, the principles of the energy conversion, and the practical systems and applications are discussed. 7) Energy from biomass, including the photosynthetic process, estimates of the energy yield, the types of conversion and their principles, and practical systems and applications. The types of conversion include direct combustion, alcoholic fermentation, anaerobic digestion, and thermal pyrolysis and gasification. (Contrary to the course catalog statement, fuel cells are not discussed.)

For more detail on the topics covered, please see the course web site listed below. This web site contains last year’s lecture notes, assignments, quizzes, and final exam.

Throughout the course, the environmental and social impacts of renewable energy are discussed, and the latest news on renewable energy is covered. An example of the latter is wind energy development.

ENVIR/ME/CHEM E/PHYS 342 (Energy & Environment II) is part of a two course set offered on the introduction to energy and environment. The other course, ENVIR/ME/CHEM E/PHYS 341 (Energy & Environment I), offered in the Autumn, focuses on energy use, and fossil and nuclear energy. The student is welcome to take either Energy and Environment I or II or both courses.

The method of instruction is fairly typical. One-hour lectures are offered three days a week, with discussion included. Weekly homework assignments are given, and 15-minute quizzes are given in class once every two weeks (see below). The instructor and teaching assistant hold office hours several times a week to permit students to seek individual help and to discuss energy/environment issues in additional depth or breadth.

Recommended preparation

Although this course does not require prerequisites, it is recommended for students enrolling in the course to be of junior or senior standing and to have background in college-level science and mathematics. Courses in 100-level chemistry and physics, and 100-level mathematics (or 200-level quantitative science), SUMMING TO A TOTAL OF AT LEAST THREE(3) COURSES, are strongly encouraged as background for ENVIR/ME/CHEM E/PHYS 342. Examples of courses meeting the background need are CHEM 120 or 142; PHYS 114, 115, or 121, 122; and MATH 124, or QSCI 291 and 292.

Students should obtain the textbook required for the course: Renewable Energy – Power for a Sustainable Future, edited by Godfrey Boyle, published by Oxford University Press (, ISBN 0198564511. The UW Bookstore has been requested to obtain copies of the textbook. It may also be obtained directly from Oxford University Press.

Students should also look over the course web site listed below. This contains last year’s lecture notes, assignments, quizzes, and final exam.

Class Assignments and Grading

Homework assignments are given on a weekly basis, for a total of ten assignments over the quarter. Typically, the assignments are made on Friday, and are due the following Friday. About 70% of the assignments involve the analysis of renewable energy resources or the calculation of the renewable energy systems performance. Spread sheet calculations are helpful for some of these assignments. The other 30% of the assignments involve discussion of the trends in renewable energy technology and use, and the environmental and social impacts.

Your final grade will be based on the following requirements and percentages:

1. Ten homework assignments, one per week, which will count for 40% of your course grade. Homework assignments must be submitted by the start of class on the day due – normally each Friday. Assignments received more than 36 hours late will not be accepted. Late assignments received within the 36-hour period may be discounted.

2. A fifteen-minute quiz will be given once every two weeks. Five quizzes will be given, with your lowest score removed. The remaining four quizzes will count for 24% of your course grade. The quizzes will be closed-book, closed-notes. There will be no make up quizzes.

3. A two-hour final exam will be given during the final exam week. The final exam will be offered at only one time. The final exam will count for 36% of your course grade. The final exam will be closed-book, closed-notes, though each student may bring a 10-page crib sheet for personal use during the exam.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Course Web Site (WQ02)
Last Update by Philip C Malte
Date: 11/29/2002