Renewable Technologies 1a: Introduction

Course Overview

Units at a glance

How are your lights, cell phones, and water heaters powered? Every time you turn on a light or make a call, you may be using power from a limited source that emits pollutants. Or perhaps the power comes from a clean, replenishable source. In the United States, there is a 93 percent chance you are using energy from a nonrenewable energy source. Nonrenewable energy sources include coal, oil, and natural gas. Eventually they run out. Renewable energy sources come from sources that will not run out. They either replenish through a natural process or come from a source with an infinite supply. These might be sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and the earth’s natural heat. In this unit, you’ll learn about renewable energy technologies and why they are important. You’ll also learn about the history of renewable energy technologies. Finally, you’ll look at some of the countries making a difference by using renewable energy.

You’ve probably heard of global warming. You might understand that it is a slow temperature increase all over the world. You might also know that this temperature increase somehow harms the environment. But how? In this unit, you’ll learn about global warming and how it causes climate change. You’ll also learn how climate change harms wildlife, natural resources, and humans. Consumers’ use of electricity and cars are the main causes. But changing consumer habits is not as easy as it seems. Several countries have implemented successful policies to stop global warming. By examining these success stories, we’ll look at how we can use these examples to build a framework for future climate change policies.

Why do we continue to use nonrenewable energy sources? We answer the question by looking at how electricity gets from Point A to Point B. The history of electricity explains how we built this system. In this unit, you’ll explore the infrastructure and history of electricity. You’ll learn about the tradeoffs in using nonrenewable sources, specifically fossil fuels, for generating power. You’ll also look at the new technologies we could use.

If all you know about nuclear power comes from The Simpsons, you’re about to find out that there’s a whole lot more to nuclear power than what happens at the fictional Springfield nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is a chemical process of splitting atoms. It is very efficient and has the potential to power the entire world. However, it does have some disadvantages. Nuclear meltdowns can be devastating to the surrounding environment and can even cause widespread death if not managed responsibly.

Finding intelligent ways to create energy—whether it be through coal, wind, solar, or nuclear power—is one thing, but developing practical methods to store and distribute the world’s energy presents an entirely different challenge. Effectively storing and distributing power to all corners of the globe demands careful thought around issues like location, environmental effects, safety, reliability, and, of course, cost. Storing energy is a lot more complex than just dumping stuff in a box because it has to be gathered, secured, and eventually distributed with the upmost attention to efficiency and safety. Further, the technologies used to make such complicated storage possible are also used to make renewable energy, a cleaner form of power that complements the more traditional methods and seeks to improve the future role of energy.

Course Highlights

Explore different types of renewable energies and how they differ from traditional energy sources.
Analyze how renewable and traditional energy technologies are influencing our world.
Investigate the advantages and disadvantages of traditional energy systems and fuels.
Discover how consumer behaviors and government policies influence energy production.

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