Course code:



I - Introductory

Meets the following requirements:

  • QR - Quantitative Reasoning
  • ES - Environmental Science

Lab fee:


Typically offered:


The aim of this course is to help students learn some basic physics and quantitative and analytical skills so that they can participate intelligently and responsibly in policy discussions, personal and community decisions, and ventures in the area of sustainable energy.

We will begin with some basic physics, including: the definition of energy, the difference between energy and power, different forms of energy, and the first and second laws of thermodynamics. We will also provide students with a basic scientific and economic introduction tovarious alternative energy technologies. Along the way, students will gain mathematical skills in estimation and dimensional analysis, and will learn to use spreadsheets to assist in physical and financial calculations. There will also be a weekly lab to help students understand the physical principles behind different energy technologies and gain experience gathering and analyzing data.

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to apply what they have learned to basic issues in sustainable energy. For example, they will be able to evaluate and analyze a proposed technology improvement by considering its dollar cost, carbon reduction, return to investment, payback time, and how all this might depend on, say, interest rates or the cost of electricity or gasoline.

Students will also be able to analyze the potential of a technology or energy source to scale up. E.g., they will be able to consider not only the benefits to a homeowner of a solar installation, but to also analyze the degree to which solar power may contribute to Maine’s energy needs. This will be a demanding, introductory, class.

Evaluation will be based on weekly problem sets, participation in class and lab, and a final project. At least one college-level class in mathematics or physical science is strongly recommended.




Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.