Saturday, January 26, 2013

Online Course Review - Introduction to Renewable Energy

One of the great things about living in the information age is the vast amount of information available at our fingertips. One of the best ways to take advantage of this information is by taking an online class. Many such classes are available for free, and can be great opportunities for those with some time to spare, especially during the winter months.

One such course that I've completed recently is the Introduction to Renewable Energy course offered by Solar Energy International. SEI offers both in-person and online classes and workshops, and uses the free course as a way of introducing their curriculum to a wider range of people in hopes that they will enroll in a paid course.

The SEI Introduction to Renewable Energy course is divided into 10 Lessons, each of which covers a different renewable energy technology or area of interest. The lessons are very short, and can easily be completed in less than an hour each. Most provide one or more short audio or video clips, which primarily serve as an introduction, as well as a couple of documents to read, most of which consist of only a single page. At the end of each lesson is an exercise and quiz, which is how performance is assessed. I scored 100% on the exercise and averaged 94% on the quizzes, which might provide an indication of how easy they are.


  • Why Renewable Energy
  • Energy Conservation and and Energy Efficiency
  • Green Building
  • Solar Thermal
  • Solar Electricity
  • Wind Power
  • Micro-hydro
  • Other Renewable Energy Technologies
  • Renewable Energy for the Developing World
  • Economics of Renewable Energy
This course truly is an introduction. I have taken several renewable energy workshops in the past, and have read a few books on solar thermal, PV, and wind energy, and this course provided me with no new information on those topics. I did, however learn several things from the Micro-hydro lesson. This makes me suspect that anyone with no prior knowledge of renewable energy might learn quite a bit from this course. At the very least the information might be helpful for someone trying to decide if they wish to learn more on a given topic. I assume this is precisely what SEI had in mind when they created the course.

Other than the lesson on Micro-hydro the course wasn't really worth the time I invested in it. The course may be more of less beneficial to you, depending on your interest in Renewable Energy and prior knowledge. I think it is worth at least considering for anyone with any interest in the topic.

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