Wind Turbine Systems

AERSP 880 Syllabus


AERSP 880: Wind Turbine Systems

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."


Susan Stewart

Dr. Susan Stewart
Associate Teaching Professor
Department of Aerospace Engineering, Penn State.

  • E-mail: Please use the course e-mail system (see the Inbox tab in Canvas). This is the best way to reach me at all times.
  • Office Hours: I will check for and reply to messages throughout the work day. Please contact me to make an appointment if you’d like to speak to me at a given time. I am fairly flexible and will make every effort to accommodate your schedule.

NOTE: Please also consider making use of the "Questions and Answers" discussion forum on Canvas, because other students may be able to share experience dealing with certain issues. Just like all of us, I have other work and family responsibilities in addition to AERSP 880. So even though I have every intention of addressing questions efficiently, at times I need to delegate my time and plan ahead to get everything done. Because of this, I would like to institute a policy that it is expected that I will read and respond to e-mail and discussion forums at least once per day (more likely several times) during the work week (Monday through Friday). I will make an effort to be online occassionally in the evenings and on the weekends, but please don't count on it! Note: This means I will be able to answer questions posted up until NOON on the day before an Assignment is due. There will be no guarantees on anything posted later than noon will be addressed in sufficient time for you to complete the assigned work effectively, so make sure you take this into account as you're planning your own schedule.

Course Overview

Prerequisites: Strong Math & Science Background, recommended undergraduate fluid mechanics and statics (engineering mechanics).

This course provides an overview of the wind turbine as a system, including the influence of the wind resource and external factors that impact the wind energy enterprise. It builds upon a fundamental understanding of fluid mechanics, statics, and systems engineering to provide students with the full systems perspective of a wind turbine including an in-depth understanding of modern design configurations.

This course promotes an understanding of energy and sustainability science through the detailed analysis of wind energy systems with comparisons to conventional energy resources, it also addresses aspects of energy and sustainability project development by introducing the linkages between site specific wind resources and wind turbine design for optimum economics, and it promotes the use of advanced critical thinking by challenging the students to trace the progression of modern wind turbine design while examining the external factors which have defined the specific evolutionary route.

Toward these objectives, students who successfully complete AERSP 880 will be able to:

  • understand the structure and current state of the wind industry and how these influence project development.
  • communicate the design evolution of commercial wind turbines from its infancy to modern technology today.
  • describe the specific attributes of the wind resource that influence wind turbine design and siting as well as operation for maximum revenue.
  • analyze wind turbine components and compare various design configurations.
  • compute performance characteristics of the main components of the wind turbine.

What I Expect of You

This course requires a minimum of 8-12 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in the 8-12 hours each week is time to complete assignments, projects and related activities. Some weeks, you may spend less time than that, so keep this in mind in the tougher weeks (when you'll be making up the difference!). You'll be glad to know that you don't have to show up for class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete each project and a quiz before the published deadline at the end of the week.

I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The Internet may still be a novel learning environment for you, but in one sense it is no different than a traditional college class: how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me, as well as with your fellow students.

You will need to check out the course discussion forums regularly (you can register to receive automatic updates). That's where students and the instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. I strongly encourage you to get in the habit of logging in to the course website every day to check in on the class. With only occasional exceptions, I check message boards six (and usually seven) days a week. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message. If I anticipate not logging in for more than a day, I will let you know and also clearly state when you can next expect to hear from me.

Required Course Materials

All materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas, with the exception of the course textbook - Wind Energy Handbook, which is available in digital format through the Penn State Library (details below). In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources).

  • Wind Energy Handbook, Second Edition, by Tony Burton. 2011.

I am also adding the following two textbooks which have been referenced frequently in the course:

  • Wind turbines: fundamentals, technologies, application, and economics, Second Edition, by Erich Hau. 2006.
  • Wind Energy Explained, Theory Design and Application, Second Edition, by James Manwell. 2009.

Look these titles up on the PSU Library website in Lion Search and look for the "Full text online" link.

Assignments and Grading

AERSP 880 will rely upon a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

  • Quizzes: Each lesson is accompanied by a quiz that will assess understanding of the course material. Quizzes will be due by 11:59 pm Eastern the day they are due (I have built in an extra grace period of 1 day - quizzes submitted in this window will be accepted with a 20% grade penalty). Additionally, the lowest quiz grade will be dropped. (20%)
  • Anticipatory Questions: Each lesson will begin with anticipatory questions. You are asked to give the question(s) a couple minutes of thought before you begin reading through the lesson material and jot down your initial thoughts in the entry box. Perhaps think of it as a hypothesis on the answer. You are not graded on the accuracy of this submission. Instead, there will be a question on the quiz at the end of the lesson which asks you to reflect on this question again based on what you've learned in the lesson. You will receive full credit on this question if you have both answered the original Anticipatory question and written a thoughtful response on the quiz. If you have not answered the anticipatory question, your quiz response will be reduce by 1/2 of the point value of the question.
  • Assignments (35%): The assignments will take on a variety of formats throughout the course of the semester.
    • Homework assignments will generally be design assignments that encourage the use of advanced critical thinking skills. Assignments will be graded on the depth of research, accuracy of results, use of appropriate references and/or tools, and clear communication of results.
      • Homework assignments will be due by 11:59 PM on the day of submission. There is again a grace period provided if the submission is received by 10 am Eastern the morning after the assigned due date a 10% penalty will be assessed.
      • The lowest score will be dropped from the Homework assignment category.
    • Discussion Assignments: Several of the lessons will incorporate discussion questions that you will answer individually using a Discussion Forum in Canvas.
      • For discussion assignments, the first submission should be submitted before the assigned due date, but the discussion forum will remain open for several days to encourage ongoing discussions.
    • Case Studies: Some assignments or portions of assignments will be distinguished as Case Studies. These are intended to be more open ended questions that simulate real world situations you might experience in the work environment. In the real world, you are not always provided with every detail you need to solve a problem, but you will need to seek out some answers and make engineering judgements as you pursue a solution. You will be encouraged to communicate with other course participants as you formulate your own individual response to these case studies. Discussion boards will be created to stimulate this discussion and in some cases an industry representative will be available to also answer questions to help guide your responses. Assignments will be graded on the description of the methodology used, a clear presentation of all assumptions made and any references (or otherwise justifications) needed to back up these assumptions, accuracy of the results (within a margin of error) as well as clear communication of the results.
      • Case Studies will be due by 11:59 PM on the day of submission. There is again a grace period provided if the submission is received by 10 am Eastern the morning after the assigned due date a 10% penalty will be assessed.
  • Semester Project: There will be a project assigned near the end of the semester. (15%)
  • Exams: a mid-semester exam will be used to assess the students’ comprehension of the course material and to provide intermediate feedback on course progress (15%) while a comprehensive final exam will assess the overall level of understanding of the material covered in the course (15%).

**Note that adherence to standards of the University's Academic Integrity Policy are expected in every aspect of this course. Submissions to discussion assignments, quizzes, exams, and homework assignments are to be in your own words or properly cited as necessary. Please see the Course Policy section below.

It is important that your work be submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Canvas Assignment Page or Discussion Forum and by the designated due date. Many of these activities require some interpretation and independent thinking on your part. As you are working on the assignment, you are encouraged to share ideas and questions you may have in the "Questions ?" Discussion Forum located in Canvas. I will read daily and reply as needed. I strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!

Grades are assigned by the percentage of possible points earned in each Lesson's activities, as shown below.

Assignment Grading
Assignment Percent of Grade
Quizzes (lowest score will be dropped) 20%
Homework Assignments (lowest score will be droppedl) 35%
Project 15%
Mid-Term Exam 15%
Final Exam 15%
Total 100%

I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the gradebook, too, by clicking the Grades link in the course in Canvas. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Letter Grades
Grade Percent
A 93–100%
A- 90–92.9%
B+ 87–89.9%
B 83–86.9%
B- 80–82.9%
C+ 77–79.9%
C 70–76.9%
D 60–69.9%
F <60%
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

AERSP 880 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

Below you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. This course is fifteen weeks in length. Each lesson is one to two weeks long. The specific assignment due dates will be posted in the Canvas calendar.

AERSP 880 Course Schedule
Lessons Tasks
Lesson 1: Wind Industry Overview Read Lesson and assigned material
Discussion Assignment
Lesson 2: The Wind Resource Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Lesson 3: Wind Turbine Design Evolution Read Lesson and assigned material
Discussion Assignment
Lesson 4: Aerodynamics of Wind Turbines Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Lesson 5: Drivetrain & Generator Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Midterm Exam
Lesson 6: Structural Elements Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Lesson 7: Turbine Design Standards

Read Lesson and assigned material

Homework Assignment


Lesson 8: Offshore Wind Technology Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Lesson 9: SCADA Read Lesson and assigned material
Homework Assignment
Final Exam

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk.

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. 

According to Penn State policy  G-9: Academic Integrity, an academic integrity violation is “an intentional, unintentional, or attempted violation of course or assessment policies to gain an academic advantage or to advantage or disadvantage another student academically.” Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, you must complete all course work entirely on your own, using only sources that have been permitted by your instructor, and you may not assist other students with papers, quizzes, exams, or other assessments. If your instructor allows you to use ideas, images, or word phrases created by another person (e.g., from Course Hero or Chegg) or by generative technology, such as ChatGPT, you must identify their source. You may not submit false or fabricated information, use the same academic work for credit in multiple courses, or share instructional content. Students with questions about academic integrity should ask their instructor before submitting work.

Students facing allegations of academic misconduct may not drop/withdraw from the affected course unless they are cleared of wrongdoing (see G-9: Academic Integrity). Attempted drops will be prevented or reversed, and students will be expected to complete coursework and meet course deadlines. Students who are found responsible for academic integrity violations face academic outcomes, that can be severe, and put themselves at jeopardy for other outcomes which may include ineligibility for the Dean's List, pass/fail elections, and grade forgiveness. Students may also face consequences from their home/major program and/or The Schreyer Honors College.

Please also see Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Procedures, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Academic Integrity Training for Students.

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides the contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website.

To receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. See Student Disability Resources: Applying for Services. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances, or university-approved activities.  If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall be given to you in written (paper or electronic) form.