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Why should I take this Trinity Elective?

In 2016 over half of all global electricity generation was based on fossil fuel. Approximately 5% used wind and solar. But that’s up from less than 1% in 2004. It is not clear that the trend towards low carbon power generation is inexorable. There are many questions which are hotly contested, which need to be considered through critical thinking, rather than sound bites. For example: what are the practical limits of low-carbon energy technologies? How much energy do we need? How expensive is renewable power and is it a price that people can afford? What happens when the wind doesn’t blow, or at night when solar cells don’t work? In this Trinity Elective you will address the question of how the global community, and we in Ireland, should generate power for our sophisticated, comfortable, liberal civilization.

What will I learn?

At the end of this module you will be able to:
  • quantify the scale of the energy supply and demand task;
  • describe and compare various power generation technologies;
  • estimate the potential contribution of a particular technology.

What will I do?

  • Attend a series of lectures to explore the socio-economic, environmental and technological context of electricity provision in the near future;
  • Develop your own overarching plan to decarbonize energy supply in Ireland using an online tool.
  • Explore the interaction of weather and renewable energy generation using real world data;

How will this be delivered?

The module will be delivered primarily by in person lectures. There will also be self directed problem sets in Blackboard which will be indicative of the exam questions and will illustrate the practical application of the material covered in the lectures. To succeed in the module you will need to devote approximately 100 hours of student effort over the semester:

  • Lectures: 24 hours
  • Self directed problem sets: 10 hours
  • Reading & study: 50 hours
  • Assignments: 20 hours
  • Exam: 2 hours

How will this be assessed?

The module will be summatively assessed by a 2 hour end of semester exam contributing 80% of module grade.In addition, there will be two assignments worth 5% and 15% respectively.
Assignment 1: Development of a plan to decarbonize the energy supply of Ireland. Each student will develop their own pathway from present usage to a decarbonized supply. The objective will be to provide enough power to meet demand, while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 20% of 2005 levels. This will be done using a model by the Energy Institute and publicly available.
Assignment 2: Assessment of realistic variable renewable potential (15%). You will use a simple model of the output of a commercially available wind turbine (an Enercon E66) and PV characteristics to assess the realistic power output based on actual meteorological data (available from Met Eireann). The wind speed will be corrected for altitude and the effect of intermittency will be assessed by estimating the maximum energy storage necessary to achieve a levelized load. A spreadsheet embedding these models will be provided. Each student will be allocated a unique year and monitoring location. The assessment will be repeated for each month throughout the specified year. The objective to demonstrate the seasonal variation in capacity factor and quantify the scale of energy storage needed in a zero-carbon economy. You must critically assess the limitations of the modelling and explain why the estimates are likely to be over or underestimated.

Who can take this Trinity Elective?

  • Any student eligible to take a Trinity Elective can select this Trinity Elective.

More Information (PDF 198KB)