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University of Colorado Boulder

Renewable Energy Technology Fundamentals

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing industries on the planet, with billions of dollars invested each year to meet international energy sustainability goals. This course will provide you with a solid foundation for understanding and deploying important renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. In addition, you will come away with a good understanding of important energy storage technologies such as pumped hydro, batteries, and hydrogen.

Upon completing the course, you will be conversant with the opportunities and challenges of renewable energy technologies. You will be comfortable participating in debates and making decisions regarding these technologies. And the knowledge you gain will be foundational for further study of renewable power systems, renewable energy projects, and forecasts for the future of renewable energy. We hope you will join us on our journey!

This course is the first in a four-course Coursera specialization in Renewable Energy.
• Renewable Energy Technology Fundamentals
• Renewable Power & Electricity Systems
• Renewable Energy Projects
• Renewable Energy Futures

Course logo image credit: "Wind Turbine" icon courtesy of Vectors Point from the Noun Project.


  • Energy Fundamentals
    • Any understanding of renewable energy requires vocabulary, principles, and tools – that is the objective of this week’s module. We first define “energy.” What is it? Where does it come from? How is it measured? What are its rules?

      We then turn our attention to electricity and ask similar questions. What is electricity? How is it measured? How can renewable resources be used to generate electricity? Upon completion of this module, you will have a solid grounding in the underlying concepts required to understand the promise and challenges of renewable energy technologies.
  • Wind Energy
    • This week we turn to wind energy – currently the most rapidly growing global source of renewable energy. First, we investigate how do winds arise? What are the important characteristics of wind? And how much energy is embodied in wind? We then describe how wind turbines extract energy from wind, and detail the components, performance, and economics of wind turbines. Along the way we pay close attention to rapidly evolving offshore wind technologies and their use.
  • Solar Energy
    • Solar radiation is the most abundant source of renewable energy on earth. Given this abundance, how can it be transformed for human use? In this module we investigate several ways to turn sunlight into electricity. We first describe the attributes of solar radiation and the various ways that sunlight is useful for humans. Next, we introduce photovoltaic (PV) technologies, and how they are used to generate abundant electricity. We conclude with an examination of solar PV project applications, planning, and economics.
  • Other Renewable Energy Technologies
    • While wind and solar are the fastest growing renewable energy technologies globally, hydroelectric power remains the largest, and other technologies also have long histories. In this final module, we first describe six of these technologies, including hydropower, biomass energy, concentrating solar power, geothermal power, and ocean energy. Since effective and economic energy storage is critically important for the long-term success of renewable energy, we next turn to energy storage technologies, including pumped hydro, batteries, thermal storage, and hydrogen storage, plus several emerging storage technologies. We conclude with forecasts for the success of both renewable energy generating technologies, and renewable energy storage technologies.
  • Final Assessment
    • The last week of Renewable Energy Technology Fundamentals includes a final exam that will allow you to demonstrate your mastery of the content covered in this course. Take some time to study, review any concepts or topics you found challenging, and then take the final exam!

Taught by

Stephen R. Lawrence

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