Sustainable energy systems degree offered at Griffith University

Tuesday, 08 July, 2008

Rapid growth in demand for green power has exposed a large knowledge gap in Australia’s ability to devise next-generation green power solutions, Griffith University surveys have shown.

Launching Griffith’s new Sustainable Energy Systems discipline, deputy head of Engineering at Griffith University, Steven O’Keefe, said demand for new technology would intensify as the implications of accords like the Kyoto Protocol began to bite.

“Governments worldwide are offering cash incentives to households and businesses to install technologies that reduce consumption or generate power, so there’s a real niche for engineers with electronics knowledge to develop these.”

Griffith has developed the Sustainable Energy Systems program based on an electronics engineering degree, enhanced with specialist courses covering renewable energy generation, power storage and distribution, and efficient energy consumption.

"TAFE has been filling the gap at a practical level by training installers, further highlighting the gap in university offerings at design and development level,” he said.

“Our research shows a lack of university degrees focused on the technical aspects of solar and wind generation, energy auditing and, most importantly, on reducing consumption,” he said.

“Globally, significant jobs growth is likely to come from traditional and green energy generators, power distribution companies and other organisations working in distributed energy systems, and efficient electronic device design.”

Bachelor of Engineering student Natasha Smith studied a sustainable energy course last year as part of her degree. She now aims for a career developing and promoting sustainable energy solutions, particularly in developing countries.

She said the course had opened her eyes to problems with the current system.

“I knew conserving power was a good thing, but I was surprised to learn how inefficient coal-fired power stations were and the losses that occur throughout the system,” she said.

“I became interested in the industry because our current energy supply methods are not sustainable long term. Until recently, you never really heard about green alternatives but there are numerous options that could be investigated, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and tidal energy.

“Learning about this emphasised the cascading effect that saving energy, even on an individual level, would have. I learned how to size wind turbines and solar panels to meet home energy requirements and investigated other sources to satisfy our energy supply needs.”


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