Home Education Energy-Related Courses

The following is a list of courses offered at CU-Boulder relating to renewable and/or sustainable energy. Most are offered every year though a few may not be offered this year. Please submit any updates to this list to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

ANTH 4020/5020 Anthropology of Energy In this seminar, we will use an anthropological perspective to consider the social and environmental implications of four key sources of energy: oil, coal, nuclear and renewables.

AREN 3130-020 Building Energy Laboratory (3 credits). Two lectures, one 3-hour lab per week. Offers a laboratory course on mechanical systems in buildings, focusing on building applications of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer. Applications include solar collectors, pumps, fans, heat exchangers, and air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Prereq., AREN 3010. Brandemuehl.

ASEN 4519/5519 Energy Systems for Earth and Aerospace Applications. The main alternative energy systems that are nowadays heralded as "sustainable" or "renewable" for Earth applications have long been used in Space systems. The aerospace industry has spearheaded the development of these energy systems. The goal of the course is to provide engineering students with basic and in depth knowledge of the scientific foundation for four alternative energy resources for space and Earth applications. Prereq: Junior level background in Materials Science,Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Physics, Chemistry. Koster. Spring 2009 Flyer

BADM 6930 Commercializng Sustainable Energy Technologies. Addresses the opportunities and problems of commercializing new renewable energy technologies.  Focuses on energy markets, opportunity identification, life cycle analysis, policy economics, project financing, and economic analysis as they relate to bringing renewable energy technologies to market. Lawrence

CHEM 4271/5271 Chemistry of Solary Energy
Chemical principles of conversion of solar energy into electricity and fuels in molecular and semiconductor-based systems. Overview of solid-state electronic structure of materials and interfaces, light-matter interactions, principles of harvesting photoexcited currents and useful chemical species. Description of processes utilized in established and emerging solar energy technologies. Prereq., undergrad organic and physical chemistry, grad standing, or instructor consent. 

CHEM 5061 (3) Advanced Inorganic Chemistry 2. Lectures in physical Inorganic chemistry with an emphasis on topics for understanding modern solar energy conversion to electricity and fuels. Includes a description of bonding and properties of coordination compounds in terms of the ligand field and molecular orbital theories. The primary research literature will be used to motivate exploration of relevant themes including spectroscopy, electron transfer, energy transfer, bioenergetic conversion, and small-molecule activation. Prereqs., CHEM 4011 and 4531, or graduate standing. Damrauer.

CHEM 5171 Electroanalytical Chemistry (with emphasis on Energy Conversion and Storage). This course will cover the following topics: Physical Chem. of Conducting Solids, Ionic Solutions & Electrochemical Cells, Instrumentation and Techniques, and Energy Conversion and Storage. Carl Koval. Flyer

CHEM 6111 Special Topics in Analytical Chemistry (Nanoscience in Chemical Analysis and Biotechnology), 3 credits. Note that this course is incorrectly listed in the PLUS course registration system as CHEM 6111 - SP TPC: ATMOSPHERIC). The course will explore fundamental principles and applications of nanometer-scale chemical systems. Topics will include chemical and biological synthesis of nanoparticles, nanowires, and nanotubes; ordered assemblies and crystals of nanoscale systems; nanostructures in chemical analysis; biomedical applications of nanomaterials; societal implications of nanotechnology; and, industrial nanotechnology -- including energy conversion applications such as quantum dots. For more information contact Professor Dan Feldheim: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

CHEN 4838-001 Energy Fundamentals: Global and Future Perspectives (3 credits). This course is the study of the earth's energy past, present and future from a fundamental, scientific point of view. The primary learning objective is to gain a scientifically-based understanding of energy sources and demands that will allow the student to grasp our energy future from a realistic perspective. Energy sources will include nuclear, biomass, solar, hydro and wind. Demands will include transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, lighting, heating and air conditioning. The environmental impacts of our energy future will be considered. Having completed this course, students will be able to engage in policy discussions, planning and decision-making on energy matters with a sound, factual foundation. Prerequisite: thermodynamics. Clough.

CVEN 4838/5838 Sustainability and the Built Environment (3 credits). This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts of sustainability and sustainable development. Special emphasis is placed on understanding the interaction of the built environment with natural systems and the role of technical and non-technical issues in shaping engineering decisions. Issues such as green development, renewable energies, appropriate technology, and systems thinking are discussed. Amadei.

CVEN 5020 Building Energy Audits (3 credits). Analyzes and measures performance of HVAC systems, envelopes, lighting and hot water systems, and modifications to reduce energy use. Emphasizes existing buildings. Prereq., AREN 3010 or equivalent. Krarti.

CVEN 5050 Advanced Solar Design (3 credits). Predicts performance and analyzes economics of high temperature, photovoltaic, and other innovative solar systems. Also includes performance prediction methods for solar processes. Prereq., AREN 2010 or equivalent. Brandemuehl.

CVEN 5830-002/CVEN4830 Sustainable Building Design. Buildings can be designed to produce less greenhouse gases while being more comfortable, healthy and economical through the proper application of sustainable design principles. This course will review sustainable building technologies and provide insight into evolving design principles. The course will explore aspects of building thermal performance, indoor and outdoor environmental quality, occupant comfort, and climate relevant to building design. Topics include sustainable building elements, climate and comfort parameters, passive and active energy systems, and environmental implications of building. Advanced architectural design concepts and methods will be applied to energy-efficient and environmentally responsible building design. The prevailing building simulation tools for building materials selection, ventilation design, energy calculation, and climate analysis will be introduced. The course emphasizes both a fundamental understanding and practical applications of sustainable building design strategies. Zhai.

CVEN5830-005 Building Energy Systems. This is a fundamental course for graduate students entering the Building Systems Program (BSP) but without general Civil or Architectural Engineering background. The course mainly covers three parts of materials: (1) building thermal systems, which will present the application of heat transfer and flow mechanism in building (including heat transfer principles, heat transfer through envelope and fenestration, heat transfer via ventilation and infiltration, solar heat transfer, building load calculation, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality); (2) building electrical systems (including general fundamentals and applications); (3) building lighting systems (including basic lighting terminologies, analysis method, and system configurations). The course will prepare students with general knowledge and skills that are required by the following advanced technical courses offered at BSP. The course also offers an overview of integrated building systems and design that create a comfortable, safe, healthy, productive, and efficient building environment. Zhai.

ENVS 4800-001 Biofuels This course will explore the technical, ecological, economic and policy aspects of biofuels production using argument, analysis and critical thinking. Class will consider emerging topics of biofuels including climate change, greenhouse gas production and mitigation, biodiversity, and genetic engineering. You will develop your ability to make, analyze, and respond to arguments in the context of controversies surrounding biofuel production and sustainability.

ENVS 5100-004 TPC-Environmental and Energy Economics This is a graduate-level course in environmental economics and energy policy. Students will learn to apply economic principles to analyze environmental policies in energy markets. Course goals are to understand: how markets work; the consequences of environmental externalities and other market failures; and how the characteristics of markets impact effective policy. The emphasis will be on examples from electricity generation, renewable energy, manufacturing, transportation and other energy intensive industries. A variety of policy instruments will be studied including: technology and emission standards; renewable portfolio standards and renewable fuel standards; low carbon fuel standards; emissions taxes and cap and trade systems.

ECE Energy Courses

ECEN1500 Sustainable Energy
Explores how energy is created and used in today's society. Through collaborative discussion and hands-on data collection, students will analyze the engineering challenges, fundamental limits, and potential solutions to meeting our energy needs sustainably. Students will learn to analyze numerical data, estimate orders, of magnitude, and apply mathematical methods in their own lives and in the ongoing energy debate. Basic algebra required. Restricted to non-engineering majors. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: quantitative reasoning and mathematical skills.

ECEN2060 Renewable Sources and Efficient Electrical Energy Systems
Introduction to present and future electrical power systems, including renewable power sources, interface to the utility grid, and efficient utilization of power. The major topics covered are: the nation's electrical power system, photovoltaic power systems, wind power systems, hybrid and electric vehicles, energy efficiency in buildings, lighting, HVAC, computer systems.

ECEN3170 Energy Conversion 1
Architectures, block diagrams, and operation of electromechanical systems. Energy system components, including renewable energy sources, controllers, power electronic circuits, inductors, transformers, rotating/linear machines (motors and generators), and mechanical loads.

ECEN4167 Energy Conversion 2
Efficient electric motor/generator drives: induction and synchronous motors and generators, power electronic rectifiers and inverters, controls of drives.

ECEN4517/5517 Renewable Energy and Power Electronics Laboratory
Hands-on design, construction and testing of a photovoltaic power system, including solar panels, battery storage, and power electronics: switched-mode power converters for peak power tracking and battery charge control, dc-dc voltage step-up converters, and dc-to-ac inverters.

ECEN4555/5555 Principles of Energy Systems and Devices
Understanding device technology for renewable energy requires knowledge of aspects of thermodynamics, electronic and radiant devices, materials and nanostructures. This course provides a foundation in statistical thermodynamics, and uses it to analyze the operation and efficiency limits of devices for photovoltaics, energy storage (batteries & ultra-capacitors), chemical conversion (fuel cells & engines), solid state lighting, heat pumps, cooling, and even the harvesting zero-point energy from the vacuum.

ECEN4797/5797 Introduction to Power Electronics
High-frequency, high efficiency electronic power converters for control of energy. Topics include circuit operation, steady-state converter modeling and analysis, switch realization, discontinuous conduction mode, transformer-isolated converters, converter control systems including ac modeling of converters using averaged methods, small-signal transfer functions, and feedback loop design; design of inductors and transformers for switched-mode converters.

ECEN5005 Photovoltaic Devices
A graduate level introduction to Photovoltaics, the physics behind the technology, the devices and practical applications. Traditional and renewable energy sources, thermodynamics and general energy related issues. Photovoltaic cells, semiconductor physics, solar cell structures, their principle of operation, design and fabrication. Photovoltaic systems including power converters and energy storage, residential grid-connected photovoltaic systems including the economics and government incentives, tracking solar systems and concentrators and thermal photovoltaics.

ECEN5007 Energy Systems
Take an in-depth look at the electrical grid, including conventional generation, transmission and distribution, and new renewable generation technologies. Issues including grid stability, the increase in variable generation on the grid, and how the electrical grid will change in the future will be addressed.


ECEN5017 Conventional and Renewable Energy Issues
Conventional and Renewable Energy Issues
The structure of the electric utility system is changing due to the deployment of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power plants in the MW range, and distributed plants (e.g., on roof tops) in the kW ranges. The effects of these changes within the power system call for a study of the present-day load/frequency and voltage control approaches. Various techniques for the optimal power flow, reactive power compensation, and filtering within a distribution feeder will be reviewed, and reliability indices and on-line measurement techniques will be applied to decrease power outages.

ECEN 5555:  Principles of Energy Systems & Devices
Understanding technologies for renewable energy requires knowledge of aspects of thermodynamics, electronic and radiant devices, materials and nanostructures. This course provides a foundation in statistical thermodynamics, and uses it to analyze the fundamental efficiency limits of devices for radiant energy (photovoltaics), chemical conversion (fuel cells & engines), geothermal energy, energy storage (batteries & ultra-capacitors), heat pumps, cooling, and the harvesting of zero-point energy from a vacuum.


ENVS 3621 Energy Policy and SocietyExamines how society makes decisions about energy, and how these decisions affect the environment and the economy. Uses tools from policy analysis, economics, and other disciplines to build an in-depth understanding of energy’s role in U.S. contemporary society. Komor.

ENVS 4100 Energy Policy. Varies by semester. Contact department for details.

ENVS 4100-002 Carbon neutral CU. University of Colorado at Boulder's Chancellor Bud Peterson recently signed the climate-neutrality pledge for UCB's campus as detailed in the American College and University President and Chancellor's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The pledge requires UCB to implement certain short term carbon mitigation activities - and a two year process to create a robust plan and forecast date by which to attain campus climate-neutrality. Climate neutrality is defined by the ACUPCC as "no net emissions of GHGs." Under the ACUPCC commitment, UCB must complete its "Comprehensive Plan for Climate Neutrality," by September 15, 2009. Students will learn the concepts that inform this definition of climate-neutrality, the technical approaches available to the campus that can be employed, develop an analytical framework by which to evaluate these options, and draft a proposed strategic plan that would guide an implementation analysis of available options. Newport.

ENVS 5100 Energy Policy Research Seminar (1 credit). Presentations by CU faculty and others on energy policy research. Komor.

ENVS 5100 Energy Science and Technology. This course examines the basics of energy science and technology with a focus on the fundamentals of both conventional and renewable/sustainable energy. The first half of the course concentrates on conventional energy sources such as oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. The second half concentrates on renewable/sustainable energy technologies including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, ocean and conservation. A thorough comparison between conventional and renewable energy sources is a key to understanding the possibilities and limitations of new energy sources. We investigate the technological promise and progress of each technology, as well as its limitations and challenges. At the conclusion of the course, students will have a solid understanding of energy sources and the foundation to pursue additional energy study. Stockton.

ENVS 5820 Renewable Energy Policy (3 credits). Renewable conversion technologies have shown remarkable cost and performance improvements in recent years. Although renewables (excluding large hydro) currently supply less than four percent of U.S. energy needs, they could provide much more. However, plentiful resources and working technologies are necessary but not sufficient to ensure widespread use. This course will use a mix of lectures, guest speakers, discussions, mock debates, and student presentations to tease apart the complex process through which renewable technologies move from niche markets to widespread use. The focus is on renewable technologies for on-grid electricity generation. Komor.

GEOL 3500 Earth Resources and Environment. Examines Earth's most important natural resources and their impact on society and the environment. Addresses the geology, occurrence, production, and use of petroleum, coal, mineral, and water resources. Future world energy supply and demand, conservation, and the transition from fossil fuels to non-polluting renewable resources are discussed. Pranter.

GEOL 3520 Environmental Issues in Geosciences. This course explores where our energy comes from and the potential for future sources. As fossil fuels dominate our energy production, we will also investigate the hype and realities of climate change and greenhouse gases. We will consider these topics through the lenses of basic science, policy, politics, economics and ethics. Same as ENVS 3520. White. Website

GEOL 3540 Introduction to Hydrocarbon Geology. Addresses the origin and distribution of conventional and unconventional petroleum and coal resources, source rocks, types of traps and seals, reservoir rock properties, exploration and development methods, reservoir characterization and modeling, and reserves calculations. Pranter.

HONR 4000 Sustainable Energy. The goal of this course is to provide a framework for assessing policy options that can lead to a paradigm shift from fossil to renewable energy sources. We will examine available and future technologies in the context of their environmental impact as well as their technical and economic viability. Kreith.

LAWS 6712 Law, Science and Policy of a Changing Climate. Examines the science of climate change and the broader role of science in public policymaking. Reviews the changing legal landscape to abate greenhouse gas emissions, and key issues in policy design. Reviews the Supreme Court's April 2nd, 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, overturning EPA's refusal to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicle tailpipes, and the aftermath in the courts, Executive Branch and Congress. William Boyd. Website

LAWS 6722 Energy Law and Regulation. This course provides an introduction to energy law and regulation in the United States. It covers basic principles of rate regulation and public utilities, the division of jurisdiction between federal and state governments, and the key federal statutes and regulatory regimes governing natural gas, electricity, and nuclear power. Much of the course will focus on the basic federal frameworks for natural gas and electricity regulation, with an emphasis on understanding the messy and uneven transition to wholesale competition in these sectors and, in the electricity context, the experience with state restructuring and retail competition. The course will also introduce students to the distinctive federal regime governing nuclear power. The last part of the course will address new challenges confronting electricity regulation (and energy law generally) as a result of emerging mandates for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. This course does not cover traditional oil and gas law. William Boyd.

LAWS 7122 Mining and Energy Law. Addresses major issues affecting the development of mineral resources through mining activity. Includes the regulation of the impacts of mining on the environment on both public and private land. Covers the Mining Law of 1872, the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments, and state regulation of the impacts of mining on the environment. Website

LAWS 7132-001 Energy Insecurity and Sustainable Energy. Part I will deal with the phenomena and meaning of energy security. It will examine energy insecurity in the United States, and the international community of nations, caused by reliance on hydrocarbons, and specifically by oil dependence. Part II of the course will survey the corpus of existing United States and International Laws relevant to this question. Part III will canvass the legal response to these challenges through sustainable and renewable energy laws and policies. Guruswamy. Website

MBAX 6130 (3). Sustainable Venturing. Focuses on environmentally sustainable business ventures as well as issues associated with starting and operating a business that solves natural environmental challenges while achieving profitability. Includes a number of case studies, topical discussions, talks by environmental entrepreneurs, and an applied or library research project.  Recommended prerequisites: MBAX 610 or instructor consent.

MBAX 6550-3 Management of Technology and Innovation
Examines a variety of issues common to management of technology, such as technology strategies, methods of technology transfer, selecting technology standards, managing the research and development process, and encouraging and rewarding innovation. Prerequisite: MBAC 6040.

MBAX 6825-3 Sustainable Business. Exposes students to an overview of concepts related to challenges of meeting interests of stakeholders so to balance social, environmental, and economic resources and impacts. Will provide students an introduction to the diversity of sustainability-related topics relevant to today's business managers and entrepreneurs. Students will investigate avenues for using market strategies to build a path toward global sustainability. Prereqs., 1st semester MBA core courses

MCEN 4228/5228-01 Climate Solutions. Contact department for details. Kutscher

MCEN 4228/5228 Energy Conversion and Storage. For large-scale solar or wind based electrical generation to be sustainable, the development of new energy conversion and storage systems will be critical to meeting continuous energy demands and effectively leveling the cyclic nature of these energy sources. This course is designed to be a comprehensive introduction to the basic principles of electrochemistry and their application to energy conversion and storage systems. Lee.

MCEN 5228 Sustainable Energy
Society's dependence on fossil fuel energy sources, which began during the later half of the 19th century, is no longer sustainable. It is therefore necessary to plan for transition to a broader energy mix that includes a variety of renewable sources, including wind, biomass and solar. The goal of this course is to provide engineers with a background necessary to participate in this transition.  The course is set up in three sections: weeks 1 and 2 provide first a background on global energy issues and sustainability, and then a few tools to analyze energy systems; weeks 3 - 6 cover aspects of the existing energy system (transportation, food production, and electricity power generation); and over the final 9 weeks we will investigate energy sources that will likely play a significant role in the future (wind, geothermal, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, waste management, hydrogen, biofuels) as well as discussing conservation and storage.


  MCEN 4228-005 Wind Energy. This course is an overview of the basics of wind energy technology. Students will gain a general understanding of the many disciplines used in developing wind energy conversion systems. Students will also gain limited exposure to advanced research topics in the wind energy field. At the end of this course, students should be able to understand the basic steps required for developing a wind turbine design. The students should also understand how various engineering disciplines interact in the design process. Pawlas.

PHYS 3070/ ENVS 3070-001 Energy and the Environment (3 credits). Contemporary issues in energy consumption and its environmental impact, including fossil fuel use and depletion; nuclear energy and waste disposal; solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources; home heating; energy storage; fuel cells; and alternative transportation vehicles. Included are some basic physical concepts and principles that often constrain choices. No background in physics is required. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: natural science. Website

TLEN 5830: Energy Communication Networks
Communication networks are being integrated into the electric energy grid to create "smart grids". The role of smart grids in creating an efficient, extensible, and resilient energy network is the subject of this class. It describes the existing networking technologies and standards such as SCADA and IEC61850 and the upcoming technologies that are being developed. Key issues such as cyber-security, regulatory requirements, and the industry economic framework are discussed. The issues and technologies in this class apply to related industries such as other utilities and petroleum.


Short Courses

RASEI and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business offer the RETool professional certificate in renewable and sustainable energy.  Website (link to:  http://leeds.colorado.edu/Deming/interior.aspx?id=7390)