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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Energy Systems and Technologies (PGGE11277)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryEnergy Systems & Technologies (EST) have co-evolved with human societies. Our day to day activities can be understood in practical, economic, and cultural terms (e.g. working habits, commuting patterns, food cultures), but they are invariably and fundamentally underpinned by particular arrangements of EST. These arrangements may be stable for long periods, or may undergo rapid changes due to government policies, technological developments, market processes and other factors. The majority of our MSc students do not have the requisite background to fully appreciate the nature and role of EST in shaping societal, political and environmental outcomes. They often recognise the influence of EST on natural and human systems but lack understanding of the technical fundamentals that characterise EST in terms of material inputs, conversion processes, underpinning technologies, lifecycle characteristics, technical efficiencies, supporting infrastructures etc. This course provides students with the conceptual and technical fundamentals of different EST, allowing them to:

Identify and understand concepts and measurement units related to energy systems.

Understand the fundamental technical and physical principles behind energy resources, and the operation of technologies to harvest them.

Undertake key calculations to broadly assess energy outputs and energy economics for different technologies.

Understand the historical background and development from different energy technologies and the drivers for change.

Critically think about the complex nature of energy systems and their entanglement with wider social and natural systems.

Students will engage in weekly group discussions based on pre-assigned readings and case studies. Students will also be provided with fortnightly group activities that allow them to assess their learning collectively and individually, and will have the opportunity to learn from two guest practitioners working with different EST. Finally, through the formal assignments¿ students will develop key transferable skills including professional presentation, teamwork, report writing and analytical skills.
Course description This course provides students with a fundamental understanding of EST by exploring the physical and technical principles of energy resources and the technologies used to harvest them. The course does so through a whole systems approach, beginning by exploring the different stages that integrate our energy systems (from extraction to waste), as well as the main energy related concepts and terms used for each stage (e.g. energy vs power; MWh vs MW). The final objective of such a systemic approach, beyond students becoming familiar and knowledgeable on the scientific and technical fundamentals of energy technologies, is that they can understand and recognise the importance of energy systems as connected to wider social and natural systems. After a first lecture on energy systems and energy services the course will explore different energy technologies (e.g. solar PV, horizontal axis wind turbines, biomass, hydro power generation power plants and conventional fossil fuel power plants) starting from fundamental principles as well as historical development, market trends and most frequent social and environmental impacts. After exploring different energy technologies one lecture will be devoted to providing students with a basic understanding of concepts and calculations related to energy economics (e.g. CAPEX, OPEX, return of investment and LCOE). Finally, the students will receive a couple of lectures related to soft systems theory and case studies to develop their critical thinking on the social shaping of EST. These last two weeks will also provide them with the necessary tools to develop assignment two, a long academic essay to recognise and reflect upon the complex entanglement of EST with natural and human systems. The use of mathematics will be limited to basic manipulations of data and simple formulae.

For each one of these weekly lectures the students can expect a wide range of hands-on, practice-based activities as well as discussion sessions based on course readings and talks from practitioners in the field.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 30, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Feedback Formative feedback: There will be three ways to provide students with formative feedback. (a) Students will have access to weekly formative assessment through the ¿Top Hat¿ tool to prove their technical and numerical understandings of the lectures. (b) half-way through the course, each student will be invited to a meeting with the CO to discuss their comprehension of the course materials and concepts. If there are issues arising from these meetings, the CO will modify the course content in the 2nd half of the course and may arrange to rehearse some topics if they have not been understood first time around. (c) Formative feedback will be provided for the group project and brief individual report (assignment one). Summative feedback will be provided on both assignment one (group project and brief individual report) and assignment two (long academic essay).
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify, understand, and differentiate across concepts and units in the wide energy systems terminology (e.g. energy vs power or MWh vs MW).
  2. Have some basic understanding of the fundamental technical and physical principles behind energy resources (e.g. solar radiation, wind, biomass, bodies and flows of water), and the operation of the different technologies used to harvest such resources (e.g. solar PV, horizontal axis wind turbines, biomass, hydro power and conventional fossil fuel generation power plants).
  3. Perform rough calculations on potential energy outputs and energy economics (e.g. CAPEX, OPEX, LCOE and return on investment) for different technologies.
  4. Understand the historical background and development of different energy technologies, and their current role and trends in energy systems.
  5. Appreciate the complex nature of energy systems and technologies, and their entanglement with wider social and natural systems.
Reading List
Rashid, Muhammad H., ¿Electric Renewable Energy Systems¿, Elsevier, 2016.

MacKay, David J.C., ¿Sustainable Energy ¿ without the hot air¿, UIT Cambridge, 2008. Available free online from

Salameh, Ziyad, ¿Renewable Energy System Design¿, Elsevier, 2014

Additionally, the course contemplates for students to have least two readings related to each week topic to engage in group discussions and reporting sessions. Such readings include:

Cross, J. and Murray, D. (2018) ¿The afterlives of solar power: Waste and repair off the grid in Kenya¿, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, 44(April), pp. 100¿109.

Fell, M. J. (2017) ¿Energy services: A conceptual review¿, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier Ltd, 27, pp. 129¿140.

Goedkoop, F. and Devine-Wright, P. (2016) ¿Partnership or placation? the role of trust and justice in the shared ownership of renewable energy projects¿, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier Ltd, 17, pp. 135¿146.

Gray, E. M. et al. (2011) ¿Hydrogen storage for off-grid power supply¿, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 36(1), pp. 654¿663.

van der Horst, D. (2007) ¿NIMBY or not? Exploring the relevance of location and the politics of voiced opinions in renewable energy siting controversies¿, Energy Policy, 35(5), pp. 2705¿2714.

Jenkins, L. D. et al. (2018) ¿Human dimensions of tidal energy: A review of theories and frameworks¿, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Elsevier Ltd, 97(May), pp. 323¿337.

Kalt, G. et al. (2019) ¿Conceptualizing energy services: A review of energy and well-being along the Energy Service Cascade¿, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, 53(March), pp. 47¿58.

Kerr, S. et al. (2015) ¿Rights and ownership in sea country: Implications of marine renewable energy for indigenous and local communities¿, Marine Policy. Elsevier, 52(May 2013), pp. 108¿115.

Mangoyana, R. B. and Smith, T. F. (2011) ¿Decentralised bioenergy systems: A review of opportunities and threats¿, Energy Policy, 39(3), pp. 1286¿1295.

Milchram, C. et al. (2018) ¿Energy Justice and Smart Grid Systems¿: Evidence from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom¿, Applied Energy, 229(August), pp. 1244¿1259.

Siciliano, G. et al. (2018) ¿Large dams, energy justice and the divergence between international, national and local developmental needs and priorities in the global South¿, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, (July 2017), pp. 0¿1.

Yenneti, K., Day, R. and Golubchikov, O. (2016) ¿Spatial justice and the land politics of renewables: Dispossessing vulnerable communities through solar energy mega-projects¿, Geoforum. Elsevier Ltd, 76, pp. 90¿99.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The students are expected to develop problem-solving and STEM skills related to the techno-economic understanding of different technologies. They are also expected to develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to better navigate the complexity of energy systems and technologies and their interaction with wider social and natural systems.

Students are expected also to strengthen personal attributes such as responsibility, autonomy and effectives through engaging independently and in teams with the different activities and assignments included in this course.

Moreover, the international and cooperative nature of this course is expected to also facilitate development of the interpersonal andcross-cultural communication, leadership and teamwork skills from students. The presentations and discussion sessions help students to refine their verbal skills.

Finally, the assignments help students further strengthen their writing skills.

In summary, the Energy Systems & Technologies course contributes to the strengthening of students personal and professional skills-set allowing graduates to effectively increase their employability.
KeywordsEnergy systems,Energy technologies,Technical foundations,Whole-systems,Socio-technical approach
Course organiserMr Adolfo Mejia-Montero
Course secretaryMs Kathryn Will
Tel: (0131 6)50 2624
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