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Renewable Energy

Subject description

The age of cheap energy has come to an end, the world's supplies of fossil fuels of gas, oil, and coal are dwindling fast and the problem now is - what next? The government's Energy Review highlighted the fact that there is no short-term solution to the problem and proposed that for the next twenty years the country's energy will have to come from three sources - fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable sources. Renewable energy sources - sun, wind, water, plants - will now have to contribute significantly to the country's electricity generation: 10% by 2010 and 20% by 2020. By 2010, 5% of our transport fuel must come from renewable sources, and already BP, for example, is working with major food and chemical companies to produce biobutanol from sugar beet grown in East Anglia to blend with traditional petrol.

One of the key issues is how to extract the energy from the sun, wind, waves and tides and convert it into more useful forms of energy, such as electrical energy, that are also environmentally friendly. New technologies are being developed to provide sustainable energy and these are the focus of Renewable Energy degree courses. Renewable energy technology is also included in other degree courses so it is important to check these out too if you are thinking of studying and working in this important and fast-developing field.

Example areas of study

The content of these courses differs widely, depending on, for example, whether they lead to an engineering BEng/MEng or to a more general science BSc/MSci degree, so you will need to check each course out carefully to make sure you choose the courses that have the emphasis and content most relevant to your interests. Depending on the course, there are opportunities for industrial placements and field-based activities, or to study abroad through Erasmus, or to follow either a technical or management track. The topics listed below are examples of what you may be able to study but make sure that you check the details with the institutions themselves before you submit your application.

  • Science and engineering mathematics and information technology
  • Energy resources and technologies
  • Energy transfer
  • Sustainable design
  • Power conversion technology
  • Wind turbines
  • Solar power
  • Marine energy
  • Energy generation from biomass
  • Geothermal energy
  • Waste and energy
  • Mechanics, geomechancis, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics
  • Electricity, waves and optics
  • Exploitation of renewable energy resources
  • Socio-economics of renewable energy
  • Research methods and research in practice.

Some career possibilities

Opportunities are growing for specialists in renewable energy to develop, manage and control energy needs. Graduates from honours degree courses are working in energy and environmental industries, renewable energy and engineering companies and government at local, national and international levels, in planning, energy economics and energy policy. Other options include postgraduate research and higher level study.

What do I need to get on a course?

  • UCAS Tariff: 60 - 120 points for FdSc or 280 - 320 points for degree-level courses including mathematics and physics or engineering subject
  • A-levels: D -DD for FdSc or BBC - ABB for degree-level courses including mathematics and physics or engineering subject
  • SQA Highers: BBBB in addition to SQA Advanced Highers
  • SQA Advanced Highers: BBC - ABB including mathematics and physics or engineering subject
  • International Baccalaureate: 30 - 38 points including mathematics and a relevant science or engineering subject
  • HND: relevant subject
  • Foundation Degree: relevant subject

For your application or interview, evidence of the following could be useful:

Evidence of your keen interest in sustainability, energy and environmental issues, from, for example, work experience or work shadowing in organisations and companies involved in planning, generating and delivering energy from renewable resources 
Further information on renewable energy projects and issues can be found at The Renewable Energy Centre and The Energy Saving Trust

To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*

*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk

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