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Renewable Energy

Course CodeVSS102
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF ELECTRICITY AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY " I have never found the staff at any other learning institution as supportive as the staff at ACS. This gives one a lot of peace of mind and confidence to go on - at every squeak from my side, you guys have always been there, immediately to sort me out. The feedback on my lessons has always been really good and meaningful and an important source of my learning. Thanks!..."
- Student with ACS

Learn to become less reliant on the electricity and gas companies and save money through alternative energy sources. This course will equip you with knowledge about electricity, batteries, how to become energy self sufficient and to understand different methods of generating, storing and using electricity, from hydro and solar to wind generators. Explore ways to better manage energy consumption, and how to convert a building’s energy supply to an alternative system.


What is Alternative Energy?

Alternative energy is energy that is not popularly used and is usually environmentally sound. The energy is derived from non-traditional, renewable sources (e.g. Solar, wind) as opposed to fossil fuels that are not renewable . Renewable sources can be readily replaced or replenished, either by the earth's natural processes or by human action.

Energy for human activity is obtained from a variety of sources:

  • Fossil Fuels (i.e. Oil, Gas, and Coal).
  • Nuclear Fuels (i.e. Uranium, Plutonium).
  • Renewable Fuels - Geothermal, Solar, Water (Tides, Waves), Wind Power, and Bio-fuels (Firewood and fuel distilled from crops)
Learn more about energy and its uses in this facinating and informative course.  A great course for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of alternative energy sources.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: The Problems and the Energy Sources.
    • Scope and Nature
    • Terminology
    • Energy consumption through history
    • Climate Change
    • Energy units
    • Problems with Fossil Fuels
    • Problems with other energy sources ... hydro electricity, nuclear..
  2. Understanding Energy
    • Terminology
    • Understanding electricity
    • Conductors and non conductors
    • Measuring electricity ...current, voltage, resistance
    • Ohm's Law
    • Circuits ... Series; parallel
    • Kirchhoffs law
    • Power
    • Power ratings
    • Magnetism
    • Electromagnetism and Solenoids
    • Electric motors
    • Inductors
    • Lenz's law
  3. Generating Electricity
    • Turbines
    • Generators
    • Fuel cells
    • Wind Power
    • Large Scale Wind System Design
    • Small Scale Wind System Design
    • Solar Energy
    • Positioning a solar cell
    • Small Scale Solar
    • Future Developments in Solar
    • Geothermal Energy
    • Dry Steam Power Plants
    • Flash Steam Power Plants
    • Binary Cycle Power Plants
    • Advantages of Geothermal
    • How Geothermal is used
    • Geothermal heat pumps
    • Hydropower
    • Tide and Current Power
    • Tide Barage
    • Tidal Turbines
    • Wave Power
    • Nuclear Energy
    • Fission Reactors
    • Fusion
    • Half Lives and Radioactivity
    • Waste to Energy
  4. Storage and Using Electricity
    • Terminology
    • Cells -simple cell, car battery, gel, AGM, Nickel etc
    • Deep Cycle Battery
    • Lithium Rechargeable Batteries
    • Calculating Battery Requirements
    • Inverters
    • Converters
    • System Types
    • EMR & electricity use
    • Recommended Exposure Limits
    • Safety with Electricity
  5. Non-Electric Systems
    • Scope and nature
    • Passive Solar
    • Fire Wood
    • Drying and storing wood
    • Comparing different wood types
    • Smoke fires
    • Creosote formation in fire flues
    • Environmental aspects of burning wood
    • Biofuels
    • Ethonol
    • Small scale Biomass
    • Passive Solar Energy
    • Solar hot water ... flat plat collectors, evacuated tubes, open or closed circuit, passive or active systems, heat pumps
    • Greenhouses
    • Night insulation
    • Solar Garden Water Features
  6. Energy Consumption
    • Reducing energy consumption
    • Pricing
    • Population growth
    • Large scale reduction of energy consumption -managing green cities, urban sprawl, peak demands, transport, etc.
  7. Energy Conservation
    • How a home owner can reduce energy consumption
    • Temperature control
    • Minimising light energy consumption
    • Minimising appliance energy consumption
    • Insulation
    • Solar house design
  8. Converting to Alternative Systems
    • Estimating Energy Needs
    • Building Efficiency
    • System Design
    • System Designers

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the nature and scope of alternative energy.
  • Describe the nature and application of electricity.
  • Compare different methods of generating electricity
  • Compare different techniques for storage and use of electricity.
  • Describe the application and operation of different non electric energy systems
  • Identify ways to better manage energy consumption.
  • Describe energy conservation techniques.
  • Discuss how to convert a building’s energy supply to an alternative system.

What You Will Do

  • List different insulating materials which may be commonly found inside electrical equipment?
  • Determine a practical example to show the relevance of each of Kirchoff's Laws to a technician, in their daily work?
  • Contact a number of suppliers of alternative energy generating systems (e.g. wind, solar).
  • Find out all that you can about the types of systems they supply. Collect any relevant leaflets and brochures. If possible observe such systems in action.
  • Design a floor plan and describe the current electricity use of a home which you are familiar with (but which uses only mains power supply).
  • This might be the home of a friend, relative, or even your own home.
  • Recommend ways in which this home might reduce reliability on mains supply (either in part or full) by introducing its own electricity generation system
  • Compare the relative significance of alternative sources of energy including wind, solar, fossil fuels, hydro, etc.
  • Explain electricity, including its nature, terminology and options for applying it as an energy source
  • Explain the generation of electricity through a variety of means including: Photo voltaic cells, Wind powered generators, Petrol powered generators and Batteries.
  • Describe procedures for appropriate use of electricity, including storage and safety
  • Develop ways of reducing energy consumption, including effective temperature control.
  • Evaluate a building and recommend appropriate measures for minimising it's consumption of energy.
  • Identify the restrictions or regulations which can affect the adoption of more appropriate energy applications for a specific property.
  • Plan the conversion of a property from high energy consumption systems to an appropriate network of sustainable and lower energy consumption systems






The following information gives a quick comparison of renewable energy sources:




Cost of installing




Site Specific




Seasonal Variations


Very high


Running costs







Very little





Capital Cost




Source: Tourism Switched On: Sustainable Energy Technologies For The Australian Tourism Industries (1996), A guide prepared by Tourism Council Australia, World Travel & Tourism Environment Research Centre and the Office of National Tourism.



The following comments summarise points raised in a brochure produced by the Australian & New Zealand Solar Energy Council to clarify issues and dispel myths held about solar energy.

The brochure can be seen in full on the internet at:

· Solar is not only used to heat water, but can be used to supply electricity for any use (can be generated from photovoltaic cells).

· Good housing design can provide 60-100% of your heating and cooling requirements.

· Solar energy can be stored in thermal mass (e.g. building materials, rocks, water, oils) or thermochemical reactions so that it is available at any time, including at night, and on overcast days.

· Electricity produced in photovoltaic cells can be stored in batteries.

· Some solar equipment costs less than conventional alternatives to buy, install and run.

- 'Solar' clothesline save considerable energy when compared with electric driers.

- Solar pool heaters can save a lot of pool heating costs when compared to gas heaters, and don't have the same pollution costs.

Some solar equipment may cost more initially, but will be cheaper overall due to reduced running, maintenance and environmental costs (e.g. water heaters).

· Photovoltaic cells can provide power in areas where it is too costly to connect to power from an electricity grid.

· Current solar devices are already effective in comparison to established energy sources, and improvements are continuing to be made.

· Photovoltaics are now cost effective in many applications.

· There is 25 times the yearly energy needs of Australia and New Zealand falling on the land areas of those countries on an average day.

· There is sufficient roof space on homes alone in Australia and New Zealand to produce, using photovoltaics, the total electricity requirements of those countries.

· A solar water heater will 'repay' the energy used in its manufacture in only 6 to 18 months, depending on location, and will last in excess of fifteen years.

· A photovoltaic cell will collect four times the energy used in its manufacture during its lifetime.


· Power generated from wind is an indirect form of solar energy.

· In generating electricity from wind, the chemical and heat energy steps normally required for electricity generation are not needed: the kinetic energy of the wind turns the turbine (or blades), which then turns a generator to produce electricity.

· Wind generators can run day and night depending on the presence of winds.

· Electricity generated by wind can be stored in batteries, or used directly to power devices (e.g. water pumps).

· Wind turbines for power generation have low environmental costs.

· The southern coastline of Australia and New Zealand is in the "Roaring Forties" one of the best wind regimes for power generation in the world.

· Wind generators occupy only a small space for the tower with the rest of the land available for other uses (e.g. agriculture).

· A wind generator will produce the energy used in its manufacture in 1 to 4 years depending on its location.

  • Rotor blades need to be strong, light and durable. Recent advances in fibreglass and carbon-fibre technology have enabled the production of lightweight rotor blades. These blades are capable of performing for years in the rugged conditions of some of the world's windiest locations. Turbines with blades of this length can generate up to 1 megawatt of power.

· In 1993, a joint Australian-French research project was established to investigate alternative energy options for Antarctic stations. Installation of a 10 kW wind turbine was undertaken at Casey station in Antarctica. By 2007 they hope to have a large proportion of the power requirements of their continental stations provided by renewable energy sources.

· The power available from a wind turbine increases very rapidly with wind speed: a doubling of wind speed results in as much as an eight-fold increase in power. Therefore it is important to site wind generators in a place where the wind speed is high, as well as reasonably constant.

· The first electricity-generating wind turbines were invented in the United States and Europe in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, as electricity became more widely available in towns and cities, many rural communities and homesteads turned to small-scale wind turbines for their electricity supply. Many were built on-site, using old car generators and hand-carved rotor blades or old biplane propellers.

· In Denmark nearly one percent of the nation's 5 million inhabitants own a wind turbine or own a share in a wind turbine. Denmark's turbines generate more than 1,000,000,000 kWh electricity per year, about 3.5% of national consumption. Most of the wind turbines in Denmark are owned cooperatively.


"Geothermal" comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therme (heat). So, geothermal means earth heat. Our earth's interior, like the sun, provides heat energy from nature. This heat, geothermal energy, yields warmth and power that we can use without polluting the environment.

Internationally, geothermal sources are prevalent in the U.S., Iceland, New Zealand, Italy, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, and Central and South America.

The heat from the earth's core continuously flows outward. It conducts to the surrounding layer of rock, the mantle. When temperatures and pressures become high enough, some mantle rock melts, becoming magma. Because the magma is lighter and less dense than the surrounding rock, the magma rises, moving slowly up toward the earth's crust, carrying the heat from below.

Sometimes the hot magma reaches all the way to the surface, where it is known as lava. But most often the magma remains below earth's crust, heating nearby rock and water (rainwater that has seeped deep into the earth). Some of this hot geothermal water travels back up through faults and cracks and reaches the earth's surface as hot springs or geysers, but most of it stays deep underground, trapped in cracks and porous rock.

Geothermal energy can be harvested. We can drill wells into the geothermal reservoirs to bring the hot water to the surface. Geologists, geochemists, drillers and engineers do a lot of exploring and testing to locate underground areas that contain this geothermal water. Then, once the hot water and/or steam travels up the wells to the surface, they can be used to generate electricity in geothermal power plants or for energy saving non-electrical purposes.

In geothermal power plants steam, heat or hot water from geothermal reservoirs provides the force that spins the turbine generators and produces electricity. The used geothermal water is then returned down an injection well into the reservoir to be reheated, to maintain pressure, and to sustain the reservoir.

There are 3 types of power plants which harness geothermal power:

Dry Steam Power Plants

Steam plants use hydrothermal fluids that are primarily steam. The steam goes directly to a turbine, which drives a generator that produces electricity. The steam eliminates the need to burn fossil fuels to run the turbine. This is the oldest type of geothermal power plant. Steam technology is used today at The Geysers in northern California, the world's largest single source of geothermal power.

Flash Steam Power Plants

A geothermal reservoir that produces mostly hot water is called a "hot water reservoir" and is used in a "flash" power plant. Hydrothermal fluids above 182°C can be used in flash plants to make electricity. Fluid is sprayed into a tank held at a much lower pressure than the fluid, causing some of the fluid to rapidly vaporize, or "flash." The vapour then drives a turbine, which drives a generator. If any liquid remains in the tank, it can be flashed again in a second tank to extract even more energy.

Binary-Cycle Power Plants

Most geothermal areas contain moderate-temperature water. These temperatures are not hot enough to flash enough steam but can still be used to produce electricity. In a binary system the geothermal water is passed through a heat exchanger, where its heat is transferred into a second (binary) liquid. This binary liquid boils at lower temperatures than water. Heat from the geothermal fluid causes the secondary fluid to flash to vapour, which then drives the turbines. The vapour is then recondensed to a liquid and is reused repeatedly. Because this is a closed-loop system, virtually nothing is emitted to the atmosphere. Moderate-temperature water is by far the more common geothermal resource, and most geothermal power plants in the future will be binary-cycle plants.


Geothermal energy is clean. Geothermal power plants do not have to burn fuels to manufacture steam to turn the turbines. Generating electricity with geothermal energy helps to conserve non-renewable fossil fuels, and by decreasing the use of these fuels, we reduce emissions that harm our atmosphere.

Geothermal installations don't require damming of rivers or harvesting of forests and there are no mine shafts, tunnels, open pits, waste heaps or oil spills.

Geothermal power plants are designed to run 24 hours a day, all year. A geothermal power plant sits right on top of its fuel source.

Geothermal energy produces minimal air emissions and offsets the high air emissions of fossil fuel-fired power plants. Emissions of nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide are extremely low, especially when compared to fossil fuel emissions.

Geothermal energy conserves freshwater resources. Geothermal plants use 5 gallons of freshwater per megawatt hour. This compares with 361 gallons per megawatt hour used by natural gas facilities.

We hope that we have answered your questions. However, if you would like further information, then please email us at [email protected] or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.