Alternative Energy

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

Learn about harnessing natural resources to provide renewable energy.

Learn 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 produced that is not harmful to the environment and does not lead to the depletion of the earth's natural resources. Such 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 (such as firewood and fuel distilled from crops).

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, wind, solar
  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 Barrage
    • 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
    • Alternators and Regulators
    • 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
    • Ethanol
    • 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
    • Water conservation
    • Solar house design
  8. Converting to Alternative Systems
    • Estimating Energy Needs
    • Building Efficiency
    • System Design
    • System Designers


  • 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, 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.

  • 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.
  • 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. A large proportion of the power requirements of their continental stations are provided for 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.

Study for the future - now!

We need to be prepared for changes in how we do things in order to preserve a healthier environment for future generations. Using renewable energy sources rather than continuing to exploit the planet's resources is a part of this.

By studying this course you are embracing technologies which are evolving and in ever increasing demand. You can apply this technology as part of steps yourself to become more self-sufficient, or to develop a career in renewable energy of environmental conservation.

If you have any questions or want to know more, get in touch with our specialist tutors. They will be happy to answer your questions and explore study options to meet your goals.

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