Alternative Energy

Learn about alternative energy systems, develop a plan for reducing energy usage, and learn how to build a self-sustaining house with a focus on alternative energy use.

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

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Understand Your Energy Options

Learn about alternative energy sources and their uses. Learn about the basics of electricity and how to harness with lessons on:

  • generating electricity from renewable resources
  • how to store energy
  • non-electrical systems
  • energy consumption
  • energy conservation


ACS Student comment: 
[My tutor] includes some useful comments and obviously has a good store of knowledge on the subject.
Yes, [I find the course a valuable learning experience]. I am in the middle of building a solar-passive designed house in southern Victoria and although I’ve done plenty of research and reading on almost every subject relating to self-sufficiency and alternative energy, the discipline of study has meant I have re-focussed my attention on each topic. I always find out something new that can be applied to the house".
 William Elder, Australia - Alternative Energy course.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: The Problems and the Energy Sources.
    • Scope and Nature
    • Terminology
    • Energy consumption through history
    • Climate Change
    • Energy units
    • Problems with Fossil Fuels
    • Problems with other energy sources ... hydro electricity, nuclear, wind, solar
  2. Understanding Energy
    • Terminology
    • Understanding electricity
    • Conductors and non conductors
    • Measuring electricity ...current, voltage, resistance
    • Ohm's Law
    • Circuits ... Series; parallel
    • Kirchhoffs law
    • Power
    • Power ratings
    • Magnetism
    • Electromagnetism and Solenoids
    • Electric motors
    • Inductors
    • Lenz's law
  3. Generating Electricity
    • Turbines
    • Generators
    • Fuel cells
    • Wind Power
    • Large Scale Wind System Design
    • Small Scale Wind System Design
    • Solar Energy
    • Positioning a solar cell
    • Small Scale Solar
    • Future Developments in Solar
    • Geothermal Energy
    • Dry Steam Power Plants
    • Flash Steam Power Plants
    • Binary Cycle Power Plants
    • Advantages of Geothermal
    • How Geothermal is used
    • Geothermal heat pumps
    • Hydropower
    • Tide and Current Power
    • Tide Barage
    • Tidal Turbines
    • Wave Power
    • Nuclear Energy
    • Fission Reactors
    • Fusion
    • Half Lives and Radioactivity
    • Waste to Energy
  4. Storage and Using Electricity
    • Terminology
    • Cells - simple cell, car battery, gel, AGM, Nickel etc
    • Deep Cycle Battery
    • Lithium Rechargeable Batteries
    • Calculating Battery Requirements
    • Inverters
    • Alternators and Regulators
    • Converters
    • System Types
    • EMR & electricity use
    • Recommended Exposure Limits
    • Safety with Electricity
  5. Non-Electric Systems
    • Scope and nature
    • Passive Solar
    • Fire Wood
    • Drying and storing wood
    • Comparing different wood types
    • Smoke fires
    • Creosote formation in fire flues
    • Environmental aspects of burning wood
    • Biofuels
    • Ethonol
    • Small scale Biomass
    • Passive Solar Energy
    • Solar hot water ... flat plate collectors, evacuated tubes, open or closed circuit, passive or active systems, heat pumps
    • Greenhouses
    • Night insulation
    • Solar Garden Water Features
  6. Energy Consumption
    • Reducing energy consumption
    • Pricing
    • Population growth
    • Large scale reduction of energy consumption - managing green cities, urban sprawl, peak demands, transport, etc.
  7. Energy Conservation
    • How a home owner can reduce energy consumption
    • Temperature control
    • Minimising light energy consumption
    • Minimising appliance energy consumption
    • Insulation
    • Water conservation
    • Solar house design
  8. Converting to Alternative Systems
    • Estimating Energy Needs
    • Building Efficiency
    • System Design
    • System Designers

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • 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

All energy sources have problems.

The current trend for alternative energy sources is driven by a host of long-range ubiquitous problems associated with fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels have obvious environmental problems, as does nuclear energy, and even wind, solar and hydro power have some issues that need to be considered. If confined; radioactivity can be a clean and cost effective source of energy; but if something goes wrong, the costs can rapidly escalate.

Fossil Fuels
Gas, Coal Oil and Wood are easy to burn for energy; but they are not an infinite power source, and do contribute to climate change via greenhouse gasses, atmospheric sulphur dioxide (SO2) which is also known as acid rain; Smog and airborne particulates which contribute to lung diseases; nitrous oxide (N2O) which contributes to ozone formation at low altitudes; carbon monoxide (CO) and heavy metals.  Fossil fuels are not renewable, and many sources of supply are rapidly diminishing.


Hydro power is frequently considered green due to the fact that it is renewable and relatively non-polluting, it does come with some fairly significant environmental costs. Hydroelectricity is generally the production of electricity from the movement of water; traditionally this is from the damming of a river to create a reservoir of water which via controlled release is used to drive turbines. Problems associated with damming and channelling water through a turbine include: reservoir stratification leading to a decline in the amount of dissolved water; habitat loss through dam construction; changing water levels in reservoir; sedimentation of the reservoir which can also lead to nutrient loading; erosion; dramatic changes in habitat for wildlife and fish.

Wind Energy
People do complain about wind turbines. The most common complain is that they look ugly, being very tall and dominating otherwise beautiful landscapes (particularly if grouped together).  They can also impact upon wildlife. Birds try and fly through them and are killed. They are also prone to being hit by lightning.  The energy produced by wind is not stored easily and if often generated far from population centres. Some say wind turbines are noisy; but generally this is not a significant issue for anyone more than a kilometer or two away from the turbine.

Solar Energy 
To date one of main drawbacks to common usage of solar energy is the cost involved with photovoltaic cells.  Other problems include the fact that they only work during sunlight hours, they can be affected by pollution (reduction in solar energy reaching the cell).

Learn to Choose, Implement and Operate Different Types of Energy Solutions

Many people use petrol in their car, electricity in their house and gas or wood burning for heating or cooking; because that's what is readily available,m and that is what everyone they know uses.

For some, this may change your living into something that is "greener" or more "environmentally friendly". At the same time, it can result in lower energy costs, and less dependence upon "mainstream" energy supply companies.  For others, this may open up opportunities for business or employment.

Where this Course Lead?

When you study this course, your eyes are opened to many other options, and you should begin to see how you can do things differently when it comes to energy.
Renewable and Sustainability energy technologies are changing and growing at a fast rate, therefore research and development in this area will be progressing worldwide.

With the solid foundation formed through this course, you will be set on a path whereby you can follow many different areas of renewable energy or focus on a discipline you are passionate about. 

Possible Roles that are available to you from here:

  • Energy Advisor
  • Sustainability Consultant
  • Climatology Roles
  • Renewable Energy Development Engineer
  • Towards other Engineering Fields: Hydro-electrical, Solar, Wind
  • Renewable Energy Farming (Bio-fuels)
  • Wind-farm Developer
  • Wind-farm Fabricator/Operator
  • Solar-farm Developer
  • Solar-farm Fabricator/Operator
  • Sustainable Transportation Roles
  • Energy Saving Building/Manufacturing Roles
  • Used towards further studies
  • Research Roles
  • Internship Roles

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John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner. J
Jacinda Cole

Former operations manager for highly reputable Landscape firm, The Chelsea Gardener, before starting his own firm. Gavin has over 20 years of industry experience in Psychology, Landscaping, Publishing, Writing and Education. Gavin has a B.Sc., Psych.Cert.
Bob James

Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,