EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

8.0 Overview


In Lesson 8, we will overview several renewable energy technologies that are currently considered the main players of the future sustainable energy economy. It would not be realistic to cover all technical details of these technologies within one lesson, and this is not our goal here. Your main focus in this lesson should be to grasp the basic idea of how these technologies operate, how their performance is compared to conventional energy options and to each other, and what is the promise. In the end of this lesson, you will be asked to perform an activity on the comparison of some energy technologies by several metrics that are relevant in sustainability analysis. Some examples of metric calculations and some technology applications are also included in this lesson.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • articulate the fundamentals of the key alternative energy technologies;
  • understand standard metrics for analyzing and comparing alternative energy technologies.


You will be asked to read the following sources throughout the lesson. Please excuse the large number of readings – renewable energy is an extremely versatile area to cover. Some of these sources are concise and contain introductory information that will not require too much time to work through.

Website: Christiana Honsberg and Stuart Bowden, PV-Education.org

Web article: "Building Integrated Photovoltaics: An Emerging Market," Solar Server – Global Solar Industry Website, 4/1/2014.

Web article: "Solar Thermal Power Plants. Technology Fundamentals," Renewable Energy World, 06/2003, pp. 109-113.

Web article: How Geothermal Energy Works”, UCS, 4/1/2014

Web article: “Geothermal Basics – Power Plant Costs”, GEA, 4/28/2014

Book chapter: F.M. Vanek and L.D. Albright, Energy Systems Engineering. Evaluation and Implementation, McGraw Hill, 2008 – Chapter 12 Wind Energy Systems, pp. 331-366. (access through e-reserve at PSU Library)

NREL Report: R. Thresher, M. Robinson, P. Veers, Wind Energy Technology: Current Status and R&D Future, NREL, 2008.

EPA ReportBiomass Combined Heat and Power Catalog of Technologies, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Combined Heat and Power Partnership September 2007. Chapter 5: Biomass Conversion Technologies, pp. 30-61.

Web article: "Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies," Union of Concerned Scientists, 4/26/2014


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum, located on the Modules page in Canvas. You can use this space to chat about course topics or to ask questions. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out a classmate.