ECEN 1500 ¥ Sustainable Energy

Fall Semester 2016



Instructor:                 Sean Shaheen

                                    Office: ECOT 256



Lecture:                     M, W, F 2:00-2:50 pm Fleming 157


Office hours:             M, 3:30-5:00 pm, or by appointment  Engineering Center ECOT 256


TA:                              Thomas Trantow





Sustainable Energy – with the hot air, by David J.C. MacKay, UIT Cambridge, 2008.

Available for free here:


Course Description

The course explores how energy is created and used in today's global society. Through collaborative discussion and hands-on data collection, students will analyze and model the fundamental limits, engineering challenges, and a variety potential solutions to meeting our energy needs through sustainable technologies. Students will analyze numerical data, apply mathematical methods and computational modeling, and apply critical analysis to renewable energy strategies including wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal, geothermal.  An emphasis will be placed on systems-level thinking and how generation, transportation, storage, consumption, and societal implementation are inter-related and inter-dependent.


Course Learning Goals

This course is designed to be a flagship class offered to other departments throughout the university in order to prepare a new generation of informed citizens from all disciplines that can contribute meaningfully to the energy debate. The course has been designed in coordination with the campus-wide Renewable and Sustainable Energy Initiative (RASEI). The course centers on an engineering math component including basic data collection and analysis, order of magnitude estimations, application and manipulation of mathematically expressed physical relations. In short the course is designed to empower students with a range of interests and backgrounds with the mathematical tools and engineering understanding in order to be active drivers in energy issues.


At the end of this course, students will be able to perform the following:

¥       Solve quantitative problems involving the production, transportation, and storage of energy.

¥       Explain and quantify the working principles behind the major renewable energy technologies, including photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, biofuels, and geothermal energy.

¥       Analyze the energy flow in an energy production-distribution system and quantify its efficiency at multiple scales.

¥       Analyze real-time data and write computer simulations in Mathematica or similar software that accurately describe the workings of a renewable energy production, distribution, storage, and/or consumption system.

¥       Synthesize plans for renewable energy advancement on local, national, and international venues, given specific data on the current state of affairs for a given region.


List of topics

¥       Motivation - Why sustainable? What is engineering? What are the goals?

¥       Energy for cars and planes. Energy from wind and solar

¥       Energy for heating, cooling, lighting, & gadgets. Energy from hydro & offshore wind

¥       Energy for food and the rest. Energy from wave, tide, and geothermal

¥       How does it add up?

¥       Can we engineer better solutions? Wind, Waves, Tides

¥       Engineering better transport.

¥       Engineering better heating.

¥       Engineering more efficient stuff.

¥       Sustainable finite resources

¥       Importing renewable energy, long distance energy transport

¥       Power fluctuations and energy storage

¥       How can we make it add up?

¥       What can we do?


Grading Scheme

Grading will be broken down into the following contributions:


In-class problems, quizzes, and mini-presentationsÉÉÉÉÉÉ.....20%


Midterm ProjectÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...25%  (group presentation: 10/12 - 14)

Final ProjectÉ..ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ....30%  (group presentations: 12/7 - 9)


Grading for individual problems will be based on the following criteria:

            100% – Answer is fully correct and was arrived at through sound reasoning.

90% – Answer is wrong due to a minor math or algebraic error; reasoning was sound.

75% – Substantial effort was put into the problem, but a conceptual error was made near

the end of the solution.

50% – Substantial effort was put into the problem, but a fundamental conceptual error

was made near the beginning of the problem.

25% – Only a cursory attempt was made at the problem.

0% – No attempt made.


The final grading scale for the class will be determined by the instructor according to the following rationale:


            A – Mastery or near mastery of course material, concepts, and problems.       

B – Demonstrated understanding of most of the concepts covered in the course;

good proficiency at problem solving.

C – Reasonable effort was put into the class, but substantial gaps in conceptual understanding and low performance on problem solving tasks were demonstrated.

            D – Little effort was put into the class, and little was learned.

F – No attendance or attempt at material.


ABET Learning Outcomes

This course strives to provide the student with a variety of specific learning outcomes. These include the student outcomes identified by ABET, and adhered to by the ECEE department, related to the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that students acquire as they progress through the program.  The specific Student Outcomes can be found here:


Missed assignment policy

Late problem sets or assignments or missed examinations cannot be accepted without an approved reason.  Make-up assignments, quizzes or projects can be given for documented reasons of medical issues, a critical family matter, a religious observance, or attendance at a conference or other approved university or academic obligation.  Please contact the instructor before the due date of the assignment to make other arrangements. 


Course ethics

Discussion and group brainstorming about concepts and homework problems in the course is strongly encouraged.  However, copying of homework, cheating on exams, or any other form of academic dishonesty is strictly forbidden.  In case of doubt on a particular issue, please consult the instructor.


Honor code

All students enrolled in a University of Colorado Boulder course are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of the institution. Violations of the policy may include: plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, lying, bribery, threat, unauthorized access, clicker fraud, resubmission, and aiding academic dishonesty. All incidents of academic misconduct will be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-735-2273). Students who are found responsible for violating the academic integrity policy will be subject to nonacademic sanctions from the Honor Code Council as well as academic sanctions from the faculty member. Additional information regarding the academic integrity policy can be found at



The privacy of studentÕs education records are protected by regulations set by the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA).  Details can be found at


Disability Services

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to your professor a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner (for exam accommodations provide your letter at least one week prior to the exam) so that your needs can be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or by e-mail at If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see Temporary Injuries guidelines under the Quick Links at the Disability Services website and discuss your needs with your professor.


Religious observances

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  Please notify me of any observances that may impact your academic duties in this class. See campus policy regarding religious observances for full details.


Classroom environment

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, color, culture, religion, creed, politics, veteranÕs status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, age, disability, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. For more information, see the policies on classroom behavior and the student code.


Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination, Harassment and/or Related Retaliation

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is committed to maintaining a positive learning, working, and living environment. CU Boulder will not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment or related retaliation against or by any employee or student. CUÕs Sexual Misconduct Policy prohibits sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse (dating or domestic violence), stalking or related retaliation. CU BoulderÕs Discrimination and Harassment Policy prohibits discrimination, harassment or related retaliation based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy. Individuals who believe they have been subject to misconduct under either policy should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) at 303-492-2127. Information about the OIEC, the above referenced policies, and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment or related retaliation can be found at the OIEC website.