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New directions in renewable energy education

Jennings, P. (2009) New directions in renewable energy education. Renewable Energy, 34 (2). pp. 435-439.

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The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly amidst rising concerns about oil depletion and climate change. Renewable energy is seen by many as part of the appropriate response to these concerns and some national Governments have put programs in place to support the wider use of sustainable energy systems. This has led to a rapid increase in demand for renewable energy specialists who are able to design, install and maintain such systems. Most engineers are not trained to use these renewable energy technologies and most are not aware of the principles of sustainability. There is therefore an urgent need to develop and implement new courses that prepare engineers, scientists and energy planners to work with renewables to produce sustainable energy generation systems.

Renewable energy education is a relatively new field and previously it formed a minor part of traditional engineering courses. These days it has an identity of its own, with special techniques, standards and requirements which are not normally encountered in other disciplines. Attempts to add one or two units of study on renewables into traditional science and engineering degrees are unlikely to produce graduates with sufficient knowledge or understanding to use renewables effectively. Modern renewable energy education includes a study of the technology, resources, systems design, economics, industry structure and policies in an integrated package. This prepares the graduates to design sound systems from amongst the range of options available. There are more pitfalls in the use of renewables than there are in using the more mature conventional technologies and systems. Designers, installers and service personnel need to be particularly aware of the industry and the characteristics of the various firms and their technologies.

Over the past decade several new approaches have emerged to renewable energy education that seek to address the needs of the 21st century for sustainable energy supply systems.

This paper will describe the aims, philosophy, structure and outcomes of several of these initiatives. It includes courses in renewable energy science, renewable energy engineering, renewable energy policy and planning and renewable energy technician training. The paper will also describe some aspects of the training of researchers in cooperation with the renewable energy industry.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
Publisher: Elsevier BV
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