Alternative Energy

Course CodeVSS102
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment



Learn to become energy self sufficient and to understand different methods of generating, storing and using electricity, from hydro and solar to wind generators.

  • Save money through making homes more efficient and renewable energy
  • Learn about energy management
  • Learn about energy generation, storage and management
  • Become aware of domestic energy usage

Explore ways to better manage energy consumption, and how to convert a building’s energy supply to an alternative system.

Study, Learn and Discover Alternative Energy Solutions for the Future

Energy for human activity is obtained from a variety of sources:

  • Fossil Fuels (ie: Oil, Gas, Coal).
  • Nuclear Fuels (ie: Uranium, Plutonium).
  • Renewable Fuels -
  • Geothermal (ie: Hot Springs)
  • Solar
  • Water (Tides, Waves)
  • Wind Power
  • Crops (Firewood, fuel distilled from crops, bagasse).

Over the past century or more, the modern world has developed a dependence on fossil fuels. We are realising increasingly, that these fuels are limited in supply, that utilising these fuels creates many environmental problems (e.g. pollution, global warming, health problems), and that we must look towards alternatives that are sustainable, and produce minimal negative effects on the environment.

This course aims to inform students about the history of energy production and consumption, theories behind management of energy,  the basics of electricity, energy generation through renewable methods, manageing energy consumption in domestic settings and more.   



Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: The Problems and the Energy Sources.
  2. Understanding Energy
  3. Generating Electricity
  4. Storage and Using Electricity
  5. Non-Electric Systems
  6. Energy Consumption
  7. Energy Conservation
  8. Converting to Alternative Systems


  • Describe the nature and scope of alternative energy.
  • Describe the nature and application of electricity.
  • Compare different methods of generating electricity
  • Compare different techniques for storage and use of electricity.
  • Describe the application and operation of different non electric energy systems
  • Identify ways to better manage energy consumption.
  • Describe energy conservation techniques.
  • Discuss how to convert a building’s energy supply to an alternative system.

What You Will Do

  • List different insulating materials which may be commonly found inside electrical equipment?
  • Determine a practical example to show the relevance of each of Kirchoff's Laws to a technician, in their daily work?
  • Contact a number of suppliers of alternative energy generating systems (e.g. wind, solar).
  • Find out all that you can about the types of systems they supply. Collect any relevant leaflets and brochures. If possible observe such systems in action.
  • Design a floor plan and describe the current electricity use of a home which you are familiar with (but which uses only mains power supply).
    • This might be the home of a friend, relative, or even your own home.
  • Recommend ways in which this home might reduce reliability on mains supply (either in part or full) by introducing its own electricity generation system
  • Compare the relative significance of alternative sources of energy including wind, solar, fossil fuels, hydro, etc.
  • Explain electricity, including its nature, terminology and options for applying it as an energy source
  • Explain the generation of electricity through a variety of means including: Photo voltaic cells, Wind powered generators, Petrol powered generators and Batteries.
  • Describe procedures for appropriate use of electricity, including storage and safety
  • Develop ways of reducing energy consumption, including effective temperature control.
  • Evaluate a building and recommend appropriate measures for minimising it's consumption of energy.
  • Identify the restrictions or regulations which can affect the adoption of more appropriate energy applications for a specific property.
  • Plan the conversion of a property from high energy consumption systems to an appropriate network of sustainable and lower energy consumption systems.

For more courses on sustainable living and self sufficiency click here

Sample of Notes from this Course:


The following information gives a quick comparison of renewable energy sources: 




Cost of installing




Site Specific




Seasonal Variations


Very high


Running costs







Very little





Capital Cost




Source: Tourism Switched On: Sustainable Energy Technologies For The Australian Tourism Industries (1996), A guide prepared by Tourism Council Australia, World Travel & Tourism Environment Research Centre and the Office of National Tourism.



The following comments summarise points raised in a brochure produced by the Australian & New Zealand Solar Energy Council to clarify issues and dispel myths held about solar energy.

Solar is not only used to heat water, but can be used to supply electricity for any use (can be generated from photovoltaic cells).

  • Good housing design can provide 60-100% of your heating and cooling requirements.
  • Solar energy can be stored in thermal mass (e.g. building materials, rocks, water, oils) or thermochemical reactions so that it is available at any time, including at night, and on overcast days.
  • Electricity produced in photovoltaic cells can be stored in batteries.

Some solar equipment costs less than conventional alternatives to buy, install and run.

  • 'Solar' clothesline save considerable energy when compared with electric driers.
  • Solar pool heaters can save a lot of pool heating costs when compared to gas heaters, and don't have the same pollution costs.

Some solar equipment may cost more initially, but will be cheaper overall due to reduced running, maintenance and environmental costs (e.g. water heaters).

  • Photovoltaic cells can provide power in areas where it is too costly to connect to power from an electricity grid.
  • Current solar devices are already effective in comparison to established energy sources, and improvements are continuing to be made.
  • Photovoltaics are now cost effective in many applications.
  • There is 25 times the yearly energy needs of Australia and New Zealand falling on the land areas of those countries on an average day.
  • There is sufficient roof space on homes alone in Australia and New Zealand to produce, using photovoltaics, the total electricity requirements of those countries.
  • A solar water heater will 'repay' the energy used in its manufacture in only 6 to 18 months, depending on location, and will last in excess of fifteen years.
  • A photovoltaic cell will collect four times the energy used in its manufacture during its lifetime.


Power generated from wind is an indirect form of solar energy. In generating electricity from wind, the chemical and heat energy steps normally required for electricity generation are not needed: the kinetic energy of the wind turns the turbine (or blades), which then turns a generator to produce electricity.

  • Wind generators can run day and night depending on the presence of winds.
  • Electricity generated by wind can be stored in batteries, or used directly to power devices (e.g. water pumps).
  • Wind turbines for power generation have low environmental costs.
  • The southern coastline of Australia and New Zealand is in the "Roaring Forties" one of the best wind regimes for power generation in the world.
  • Wind generators occupy only a small space for the tower with the rest of the land available for other uses (e.g. agriculture).
  • A wind generator will produce the energy used in its manufacture in 1 to 4 years depending on its location.
  • Rotor blades need to be strong, light and durable. Recent advances in fibreglass and carbon-fibre technology have enabled the production of lightweight rotor blades. These blades are capable of performing for years in the rugged conditions of some of the world's windiest locations. Turbines with blades of this length can generate up to 1 megawatt of power.

In 1993, a joint Australian-French research project was established to investigate alternative energy options for Antarctic stations. Installation of a 10 kW wind turbine was undertaken at Casey station in Antarctica. By 2007 they hope to have a large proportion of the power requirements of their continental stations provided by renewable energy sources.

The power available from a wind turbine increases very rapidly with wind speed: a doubling of wind speed results in as much as an eight-fold increase in power. Therefore it is important to site wind generators in a place where the wind speed is high, as well as reasonably constant.

The first electricity-generating wind turbines were invented in the United States and Europe in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, as electricity became more widely available in towns and cities, many rural communities and homesteads turned to small-scale wind turbines for their electricity supply. Many were built on-site, using old car generators and hand-carved rotor blades or old biplane propellers.

In Denmark nearly one percent of the nation's 5 million inhabitants own a wind turbine or own a share in a wind turbine. Denmark's turbines generate more than 1,000,000,000 kWh electricity per year, about 3.5% of national consumption. Most of the wind turbines in Denmark are owned cooperatively.


  • Change you attitudes to power use
  • Use alternative energy methods in your home
  • Advise others on alternative energy use
  • Use this as part of a broader qualification in environmental studies of alternative living and work as a consultant or as an employee in the industry

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