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SESM6032 Sustainable energy systems, resources and usage

Module Overview

The module provides an understanding of general energy concepts and how to apply energy related techniques gained through specialist courses to every-day situations. We will also take a look at the energy flows around our planet and consider issues such as the greenhouse effect. Questions that will be discussed in this course include: - How do we use energy? - How long will fossil fuels last? - What are the risks associated with nuclear energy? - What are the principal barriers to hydrogen economy?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Develop an understanding of social, environmental and economic aspects of energy production and usage, and provide an introduction to alternative energy sources.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Historical evolution of energy production and usage and the link to economic development
  • Exploitation of fossil fuel resources
  • Fuel cycles and link to environmental impact
  • Origins of the renewable energy sources based on energy flows around the Earth
  • Alternative energy systems such as hydrogen economy
  • A general introduction to solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Examine fossil fuel depletion by Hubbert's theory
  • Discuss the radiative balance of the Earth using a simple model
  • Analyse environmental impact of energy technologies
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop analytical skills based on observed data
  • Apply theoretical techniques to real-life situations


This module consists of four themes: (1) Energy and the urban environment (2) transport, energy storage and the hydrogen economy, (3) fossil fuels and nuclear (4) earth energy flows and renewables (1) Energy usage in an industrial society: Historical introduction. Sankey diagram, energy sectors. Integration. CHP, energy in the built environment. (2) Hydrogen economy. Properties, sources and methods of production and storage of hydrogen. Examples of automotive applications of hydrogen as a fuel. (3) Fossil fuels: Reserves and resources. Hubbert's theory of resource depletion. Fuel cycles: coal, oil & gas. Environmental impact. Introduction to nuclear energy: An overview of reactor operation. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. Nuclear fuel cycle and environmental impact. (4) Earth energy flows: Radiative energy balance of the earth, the greenhouse effect. Global circulation of air in the atmosphere. A brief overview of renewables: Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy. Seminars on diverse energy topics (according to speaker availability).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Lecture, Supervision and Seminars (if speakers available), and revision which develop the themes described in this module. Learning activities include • Individual study of social, environmental or economic aspects of energy. • Discussions during/after lectures and seminars.

Completion of assessment task20
Wider reading or practice70
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

I. Dostrovsky (1988). Energy and the Missing Resource. 

L.E.J. Roberts, P.S. Liss and P.A.H.Saunders (1990). Power Generation and the Environment. 

UK energy statistics.

BP Statistical review of world energy.

International Energy Agency.

Course resources on Blackboard.

Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.

E.L.McFarlane, J.L.Hunt, J.L.Cambell (1994). Energy, Physics and the Environment. 

R. Everett, G. Boyle et al (2011). Energy Systems and Sustainability: Power for a Sustainable Future. 

R.A. Ristinen and J.J. Kraushar (1998). Energy and the Environment. 

J.E. Allen (1992). Energy Resources for a Changing World. 

G.J. Aubrecht (1995). Energy. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 7.5%
Coursework 7.5%
Coursework 7.5%
Coursework 7.5%
Examination  (120 minutes) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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