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Renewable energy

What does a sustainable energy system look like? How might renewable energy provide a much greater proportion of our energy needs in the coming decades? Which technologies and designs for the various renewable energy sources will we rely on to help us decarbonise our energy systems and maintain a secure supply of affordable electricity and heat? In this module you’ll explore these questions by systematically reviewing the eight main renewable energy technologies. With the help of study guides, you will develop your ability to apply this knowledge practically – especially for solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
T313
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
30
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU FHEQ
3 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

Student Reviews

Good module and I believe good prep for future project modules. Materials were quite good and thorough, with minimal items...
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What you will study

This module explores each of the principal renewable energy sources in turn. Each technology is examined in terms of the relevant physical principles; the main technologies involved; their costs and environmental impact; the size of the potential renewable resource; and their future prospects.

Renewable energy is the core teaching text for this module, along with a specially designed set of online activities to help you apply the knowledge to practical examples in the field.

You will work through a series of online study guides that use material from the book, together with additional online resources, exercises and activities to cover the following topics:

  • An introduction to renewable energy in the context of our primary energy needs – where you’ll gain an overview of the current status of renewable energy in the context of the world’s present primary energy situation.
  • Energy in buildings – how energy is used in domestic buildings and how its use can be reduced with insulation and more efficient heating systems.
  • Solar thermal energy – provides a detailed overview of the physics of solar heat and how this may be captured in a variety of different ways, as well as the complex topic of passive solar heating.
  • Solar photovoltaics – a structured introduction to this critical technology starting with the physics of crystalline silicon through to issues of integration and future prospects.
  • Bioenergy – various bioenergy products and processes are illustrated with a range of practical examples examining the factors likely to affect uptake of bioenergy systems.
  • Hydroelectricity – a critical look a small- and large-scale hydro in terms of their respective benefits and penalties. 
  • Tidal power – including barrages, lagoons and the rapidly emerging and potentially significant tidal current technologies.
  • Wind energy – a detailed overview of a wide range of aspects of one of the fastest growing energy technologies globally that is set to become a major generator of electricity throughout the world.
  • Wave energy – basic principles and detailed technology case studies and a review of the most promising future designs for this potentially significant global source of renewable energy.
  • Deep geothermal energy – why it is treated as renewable even though it is being mined, its usage over the last century and its exciting future.
  • Integrating renewable energy and renewable energy futures – how renewable energy sources can contribute to world energy needs, particularly for electricity generation, and scenarios for future renewable energy growth.

You will also have access to an electronic version of the companion volume Energy Systems and Sustainability – Power for a Sustainable Future and a range of other study materials from our website.

If you are considering progressing to The engineering project (T452), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.

You will learn

By the end of the module you will be able to understand and describe the:

  • basic principles underlying the design and use of renewable energy supply systems and their implications for energy sustainability
  • main factors that determine the economic, social and environmental viability of the principal renewable energy systems.

You will also be able to:

  • use appropriate scientific and mathematical techniques relevant to the assessment of renewable energy technologies in terms of their technical potential to contribute to energy supply
  • critically assess the contribution that renewable energy technologies can make to the overall sustainability of energy systems at different scales
  • undertake basic economic analyses of proposed or existing renewable energy projects using spreadsheet-based models of energy systems.

Vocational relevance

You may be interested in a professional career in the energy industry; or may be concerned about the sustainability problems associated with our current energy issues. This module will help you to:

  • communicate scientific and technological aspects of a variety of renewable energy technologies
  • find, critically evaluate and use current information on renewable energy technologies
  • plan, monitor and evaluate progress in project work
  • produce a project report on the technological and economic viability of a proposed renewable energy system
  • interpret manufacturer’s specifications for renewable energy devices and systems.

Professional recognition

The Open University is a Learning Affiliate Member of the Energy Institute.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA).

The EMA is a project that you will develop throughout your study of the module.

Future availability

Renewable energy (T313) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2022.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject. 

    Studying the OU level 2 module Energy and sustainability (T213) will give you the necessary background and skills for this module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2024.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 28/09/2021.

    What's included

    You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access
    • access to student and tutor group forums.

    You'll also be provided with the printed core module textbook Peake, S. (2018) Renewable energy - power for a sustainable future (4th Edition). You will have access to an electronic version of the companion volume Energy systems and sustainability – power for a sustainable future.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T313 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.