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ENGR 620 Renewable Energy in the Community and Home

Introduction to small-scale, bottom-up strategies of renewable energy use in the home and local community.

About the Course

Welcome to ENGR 620: Renewable Energy in the Community and Home. This online course is designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills to put into practice much of what you have learned or will learn in the graduate renewable energy certificate. This course will explore the economic, technical, and political feasibility of implementing renewable energy, sustainability, and energy conservation initiatives in the home and local community.

ENGR 620 fills a valuable role with the GREC program by exposing students to bottom-up methods of small-scale residential and commercial renewable energy development. Students begin the course by conducting a "Do-It-Yourself Household Energy Audit" in which they survey their home for insulation values, door and window air-leaks, and excessive energy usage (as indicated by utility bills). Not only do students gain a better understanding of their household's "energy score," but they also learn of the many ways to conserve energy, from replacing incandescent lights with CFL or LED lights to upgrading to double and triple pane windows. Above all, the energy audit illustrates that the first step in going "green" is conservation. After all, less energy consumed means less energy to be produced by a renewable energy system.

After students conduct their own home energy audits, they explore some of the latest technologies being used to reduce home energy consumption. Several of these technologies are demonstrated at the Desert Research Institute's Renewable Energy Deployment and Display (REDD) Facility, where many energy conservation measures and alternative energy systems are utilized. An on-site video interview was conducted with DRI Research Engineer and fellow GREC Instructor Curtis Robbins, in which many of the unique energy saving technologies are explained and demonstrated.

This video interview gives students ideas for incorporating energy conservation and alternative energy systems into their own residential energy applications.

The course culminates in a hands-on project in which students model a grid-connected residential or commercial renewable energy system. The project utilizes the System Advisor Model (SAM) software program. SAM is a free program offered by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Users can model technical and financial components of various types of renewable energy systems in order to determine system feasibility. SAM's parameters can be customized to state renewable energy incentives, local weather data, and numerous renewable energy system manufacturer specifications to name just a few. Given Nevada's tremendous wealth of solar resources, utilizing SAM's solar system calculations provides students with a highly relevant application for local residential and commercial applications.

The course is designed to serve a diverse student body, including industry professionals, recent graduates (from engineering to liberal arts and many more) as well as those transitioning between careers. The twelve-week ENGR 620 course is typically offered during the summer semester and counts toward the 12-credit requirement to earn the online Graduate Renewable Energy Certificate.

Learning Objectives

Course Objectives

Students will gain

  • hands-on experience in developing individual and community-based energy models;
  • an interdisciplinary understanding of alternative energy with respect to the technical, economic, and political feasibility of implementing small-scale alternative energy initiatives;
  • an awareness of different tools and methods available for local and home-based renewable energy projects

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to

  • develop individual and community-based energy models;
  • apply their understanding of alternative energy to determine the technical, economic, and political feasibility of implementing small-scale alternative energy initiatives;
  • differentiate between the different tools and methods available for local and home-based renewable energy projects and will be able to select the best tools and methods for a project

About the Instructor

Michael Moltz,

Mike Moltz lectures for the Graduate Renewable Energy Certificate (GREC) program within the College of Engineering and teaches at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he is finishing his Ph.D. in Political Science. Mike received his M.ED. and B.A. in Political Science from the University of Nevada, Reno. He was one of the first graduates of the university's undergraduate renewable energy program and is an NSF research award recipient for research into climate change and alternative energy policy. Mike has taught the undergraduate renewable energy course at UNR and currently teaches ENGR 600: Alternative Energy Fundamentals and ENGR 620: Renewable Energy in the Home and Local Community as part of the GREC program.  Prior to joining UNR he was an IT consultant, in which capacity he trained public service employees in the adoption of information technology solutions. His teaching and research interests concern alternative/renewable energy policy, interdisciplinary education, public personnel administration, and public budgeting. 

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