Physics 162: Alternative Energy

Physics 162: Renewable Energy Sources

Is there a Sustainable Solution for 6.3 billion Humans on the Planet?


Nominal World Population Clock

Course Overview and Structure

This is a self-paced version of Physics 162- Renewable Energy Sources. The course is arranged as a series of modules with homework assignments specifically related to the content of the module. These assignments are due at specified times as shown in red in the modules below.

This course will deal with the issues of alternative energy sources and sustainable energy sources. The intent is to perform an objective cost-benefit analysis on each form of alternative energy in order to determine what is practical on a large scale, as well as on the scale of the individual homeowner. We will pay particular attention to the efficiency of each alternative energy source as well as what limitations exist in terms of extracting useable energy. No textbook is needed for this course as this field is changing so rapidly, any textbook becomes quickly out of date. We will therefore make heavy use of network resources (e.g. the Internet) for providing documentation and guides to various forms of sustainable energy technology.

This is an interesting time in terms of energy issues. Energy deregulation is in full swing across the nation and prices are starting to rise. Shortages are beginning to occur due to lack of planning and a changing administration will likely have different enery policies that more closely focus on increased production instead of reduced demand. Hence, this class is quite topical and relevant.

The course will start out covering solar energy but will then move to other alternative energy sources such as, Wind, Tides, Hydroelectric, Ocean Currents, and Geothermal.

The main goals of this class are to:

  • To gain an understanding of the cost-benefit ratio of various alternative energy sources to see what is feasible on the large scale and what is not.

  • To understand some of the various obstacles associated with actual implementation of production line alternative energy facilities.

  • To do simple calculations regarding the cost of energy usage and the required infrastructure to deliver a certain amount of power.



Homework is graded on a level of effort scale as the assignments are open ended (to some extent) and will allow you to research a topic at the level of depth you want to. The goal here is for you to access multiple sources of information and then synthesize a coherent point of view in responding to a particular question rather than to simply cut and paste information from some Web site. This will easily be detected and will detract from your grade. These assignments are supposed to supplement and compliment the course material and are designed to give you alternative avenues of exploration and learning. Sometimes the homework assignments contain questions pertinent to the material within the module and sometimes it contains questions relevant to future modules.

Homework is weighted equally with the exams in this course and its therefore worth your time to do well on the homework.

Failure to do one of the homework assignments will result in a score of -10 points of that assignment

The total available points in this class is 450. Each homework assignment is worth 30 points; the midterm and the (optional) final are worth 150 points each. It also helps to get the homework in by the suggested due date! Late homework will be accepted but at a reduced grade.

IMPORTANT: Failure to do an assignment will result in -10 points for that assignment .

Preferred modes of homework submission are either a)plain text or b) a microsoft word document. Note: if you are using hotmail as your primary email account, attachments often times become corrupt or don't come through at all.

The final for the class is optional in the sense that if you choose not to take it, you will be given the equivalent points based on your percentage points earned on the combined homework + midterm scores.

For example, suppose that your combined homework and midterm points were 70% of the total. If you opt out of the final you would then be given 105 points (e.g. 70% of 150) for your grade on the final.

I have implemented this system to simplify your obtaining your target or acceptable grade for this course.

The point thresholds that correspond to letter grades are as follows:

  • 400 points and above A
  • 375 - 400 A-
  • 350 - 375 B+
  • 325 - 350 B
  • 300 - 325 B-
  • 275 - 300 C+
  • 250 - 275 C
  • 225 - 250 C-

Principle Internet Resources

(not all links guaranteed to work)

General Info on Renewable Energy

Electric Vehicles:

Solar Energy

Wind energy:




  • Fuel Cells

    Nuclear Power:


  • Module #1: Overview of Energy Consumption

    Module #2: Solar Energy

    Module #3: Energy Storage and Transportation

    Module #4: Wind and Hydro

    Module #5: Energy from the Earth: The Oceans, Geothermal and Biomass

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