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

It's Easy to Enrol

Select a Learning Method

I am studying from...

Enable Javascript to automatically update prices.

All prices in Australian Dollars.

Click on Enrol Now to See Our Payment Plans Available. No Obligation.

Courses can be started at any time from anywhere in the world!

Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels

Develop an understanding of the alternative energy sources and their uses. 

Now more relevant than ever, this courses teaches the basics of electricity, how to generate electricity from renewable resources, how to store energy, non electrical systems, energy consumption and conservation.

Understand why alternative and renewable energy is so important and how to go about it.   

This is an industry which is dynamic: changing fast!

Once you have a grasp of the fundamentals though; you have the capacity to find and understand changes as they occur, or you need to engage with them

You may use this course to:

  • Improve the energy efficiency of how you and those around you live
  • Enhance your employment or career development possibilities
  • Provide a foundation for further learning – formal or informal



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
    • Kirchhoff's 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 Barrage
    • 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
    • Ethanol
    • 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.

How to Make Electricity

Electricity may be generated by various methods including: a chemical reaction, the sun's energy or by physical methods such as turning a turbine.

Turbines and Generators

Turbines are made up of a set of blades or cups (impellers) and an axle which are caused to rotate rapidly by the action of a physical or mechanical force such as wind, water or steam. The turbine axle is connected to a generator and the inner section of the generator is also caused to rotate. This inner section contains a magnet with a strong magnetic force. Around this magnet is a large coil of wire which is connected at each end to an electrical system (solenoid).  A very important natural effect is brought into action when the magnet rapidly spins near the wire coil: an electrical current is induced (this is somewhat like static electricity from a balloon causing hair to rise, even though the balloon is not touching the hair). The induced current will be AC voltage due to the spinning causing the voltage to rise and fall with each rotation. If the magnet is rotated at 50 revolutions per second (i.e. 3000 rpm) the frequency will be the same as that of mains electricity, 50 Hertz. In practice, the production of electricity by generators is more complicated, but the principles are the same.

This electricity is generated at power stations, most commonly through the heat of uranium break-down or burning fuel (e.g. coal). The heat is used to boil water, producing steam under pressure which spins the turbines. More simply, wind energy, the flow of water in a river or from a dam (i.e. hydro electricity) can be harnessed to spin the turbines.

Windmills and small-scale hydro systems are self-contained systems which trap natural mechanical energy and convert it to electrical energy. These can be operated independently of the mains electricity supply or as a supplement. Portable petrol or diesel generators may be hired or purchased to be used in similar way. They are useful in isolated situations or during power strikes.

Fuel Cells

As we have already discussed batteries (chemical reaction) can range from small torch batteries to large vehicle or industrial batteries. One advantage is that they can be used in remote situations or when a mains supply is unavailable. Batteries generate electricity by a chemical reaction which slowly occurs between layers of different chemicals encased in the battery. As the reaction takes place, electrons are released allowing them to move and create an electrical flow or current. Unlike turbine generated electricity which is AC voltage, battery power is DC voltage. That is because it is produced by a continuous, even source.

Primary batteries are non-rechargeable. When the chemical reaction is completed, the battery is finished. However, secondary batteries can be discharged and recharged again. The recharging occurs when electrical energy is fed back into the battery and reverses the chemical reaction. The two main types of rechargeable are Lead-Acid batteries which are cheap and used in cars; and Nickel-Cadmium batteries which are expensive and long-lasting.

Wind Power

One of the advantages of wind power is that the wind may still blow even if the sun is covered by clouds. Developing a two-energy source system by using both these resources is an excellent method for alternative energy self sustainability, however initial costs may be daunting.
Assuring the wind has the strength for the turbines is essential. Just because a site looks windy, it may not produce the necessary wind velocity to produce sufficient energy. Turbulent wind can negate benefits of a rotating propeller. Turbulence can be developed from nearby trees, buildings, etc. It is therefore important to ensure the proposed turbine site is above any "external" influence.

To ensure an even air flow in the area under scrutiny, place a ribbon on the end of a long pole and position this in the wind stream. If the ribbon flows strong and evenly, then this is a good indication of a good site. Air speed is best measured by an anemometer. Note that air speed increases with height due to no ground surface friction. At a height of 26 metres, the wind speed reportedly is about 50% more than at ground level, which can equate to about 300% increase in power at this height.


Many students undertake this course as part of their studies in alternative living and permaculture however this is a course that is becoming increasing more relevant to all of us. Power costs are increasing every year - there is also a move towards more sustainable ways of powering our homes. This course can be used to enhance your own knowledge, for personal use, so that you can live 'off the grid' or it may enable you to help others achieve that goal. You may also use it towards a wider study area to enable you to work as a consultant in sustainable living.

Use our free career and course counselling service.

Need assistance?

Start Now!


Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
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.,
Martin Powdrill

25 years working in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. Martin has a Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, P
Josiane Joubran

CSC consultant with IBM, Software QA Engineer, Course Writer and Tutor. Josiane is an I.T professional with extensive experience with computer hardware and engineering in Lebanon and Australia. Josiane has a B.Eng., Grad.Dip.I.T., Master Info.Tech., MCP,
Commercial Hydroponics
Learn how to grow vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs and other plants hydroponically. This classic is now re-published with new images, a new layout and revised text. A must have resource for anyone who wants to grow hydroponically.
Getting Work in a Modern World
A realistic guide to getting a job or starting out in business. This is a must read; for students, parents, the unemployed, careers advisors or anyone interested in changing or forging a sustainable career.
Professional Practice for Consultants
Explore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Project Management
This ebook is designed to help improve your capacity to manage any type of project in any type of industry. It may be read as a stand- alone book; used as something to refer to during the process of managing projects, or used as a complementary reference