This is the website for the 2012 version of GEOS24705. Solutions to problem sets have been removed. For the ongoing 2014 class (with solutions), click here.

GEOS 24705 / ENST 24705. Energy: Science, Technology, and Human Usage (2012 class)

Prof: Liz Moyer

TA: Michael Glotter

Lab assistance: Eric Stutz

Field trip coordinator: Grant Wilder

Note-taker: Lisa Pawlowicz

Info (see documents below for more)

The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30-3:00 PM in Cobb 102. Course requirements include attendance at three or more field trips and at least four labs. Lab sections will be held in Hinds Geophysical Laboratory 361, Tuesdays at 3 PM (just after class). TA office hours for Michael are in Hinds 489, Monday 5:30 PM. Liz's office hours are tentatively Wed. at 5 PM in Hinds 405 (may change week to week, check for announcements on Tuesday). Note that Hinds is locked at 5:30 PM.

Field trips will generally leave on Friday mornings. All pickups by bus are from Chicago Booth, 5807 South Woodlawn Avenue. Check the syllabus and website for times, dates, and signup protocol for each trip. Because field trip information may change, be sure to check the week of each trip. We do make accommodation for students who have Friday conflicts. Photos are available from field trips in 2010 and 2011.

The course description is here (including course requirements and instructions on requesting enrollment).

The syllabus (with schedule of field trips and labs) is here.

There is no textbook to purchase for this class, as there is no single book that is appropriate for the range of material and we don't want to ask you to buy several books. Instead we will assign readings to be done before certain lectures and will post those on this site in pdf form. People coming in without college-level physics may want to prepare by reading the initial chapters of a book by Prof. David McKay of the University of Cambridge (U.K.) that is available for free download in pdf format. (Renewable Energy: Without the Hot Air). For a broad perspective I also recommend any of the many books by Vaclav Smil (e.g. Energy at the Crossroads, Energy in World History, or Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects).

Course notes, materials, and assignments

Lecture 1: Energy flows on Earth

Global annual 

Lecture 1 slides.

Problem set 1 - a continuation of the estimation we didn't finish in class. Due Thursday March 29.

Lecture 2: Energy flows on Earth II

Earth's solar energy flow

Lecture 2 slides.

Problem set 2. Due Tuesday April 3. And answers.

Lecture 3: Pre-industrial energy use

Diderot and d'Alembert, L'Encyclopedie, 1769-1772.

Reading for Lecture 3. Pre-Industrial-Revolution growth in human energy use (15th-18th centuries): a chapter from "The Structures of Everyday Life", by the historian Fernand Braudel. If you can, read before lecture on Tues. April 5, otherwise read the concluding remarks on p. 371-372 now and the rest just after (you will need this for the problem set).

Read this to get a feel for humans' appetite for labor-enhancing devices over history, the rise in humans' need for energy even before the Industrial Revolution, and the extent to which the European economies were primed to explode if only certain technological improvements could be made (cf p. 371). Note various resource crises, including especially the gradual depletion of wood in Europe. Get a feel for what the mix of energy sources was for Europeans at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Note how much technological change took place even before the widespread use of fossil fuels.

NOTE: This is mandatory reading, but read for the ideas rather than the numbers. You don't need to memorize/learn/remember specific numbers Braudel cites; you can skim (and skim very lightly over the long section on animal power). Read the concluding remarks (p. 371-372) very carefully.

Lecture 3 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 3. Due Thursday April 5. And answers.

Lecture 4: The pre-industrial energy crisis / The steam engine

From a 1781 patent application by Jonathan Hornblower for a compound steam engine.

Optional reading: For more on the energy crisis in preindustrial Europe and the depletion of wood and surface coal in Britain, there are very readable chapters in an 1882 book called "The History of Coal Mining in Great Britain", by Robert Galloway, available (with a CNet ID) online in digital form here. Read Chapter III ("The increasing scarcity of wood causes coal to come into general use for domestic purposes. First difficulties in the mines") and perhaps also Chapter VI ("Increase in mining difficulties. Improvements in mining appliances. Invention of Railways"), which is good background for the MOSI steam locomotives. For some background on steam engines, a good source is this page by a Michigan State professor. Galloway also has a seminal book ("The steam engine and its inventors") but it's not available as an e-book.

Lecture 4 slides as both pdf and Powerpoint so that you can see the animations. And notes from Lisa.

Problem set 4. Problems 1-2 due Tuesday April 10; Problems 3-4 due Thursday April 12. And answers.

Field trip, Fri. April 6th Museum of Science and Industry for steam locomotives (also cogeneration). Meet outside front doors of MOSI at 7 AM.

No office hours Monday. Michael will do office hours Tuesday before class. Liz can do office hours by request on Saturday 6-7 PM or Sunday between noon and 1:45 PM at Cafe 57 (Lake Park and 57th), contact to arrange.

Lecture 5: Ideal engines and the Carnot efficiency limit

Lecture 5 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 5. All optional (due to changes in class schedule). Due next week, Tuesday April 17. And answers.

Lecture 6: The Carnot cycle, the Industrial Revolution

Make-up lecture, Tuesday April 10th 7 PM Hinds 405 and Wednesday April 11th, 5 PM Hinds 5th floor conference room.
Child workers in in the Bibb Mill in Macon, GA., between 1908-1912. Photo: Lewis Hine

Readings on the Industrial Revolution and the growth of energy use, for Lecture 6. This is a summary page describing the history with links to primary-source readings (that is, things written at the time of the Industial Revolution). Read the summary and skim the primary-source readings, reading at least one in depth to get a flavor for the times. I recommend reading them all carefully, actually - they're fun and a fast read. The essay by Henry Adams on his confusion and awe before the generators at the 1900 exposition is quite famous and the seminal statement of our energy system becoming something that ordinary untrained people no longer understood intuitively. "No more relation could he discover between the steam and the electric current than between the Cross and the cathedral."

Lecture 6 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 6, and the conversion grid to fill in, in .pdf and .doc form. Due Tuesday April 17. And answers.

Lecture 7: The transition to the modern energy system, electricity generation I

Held Thurs. April 12
U.S. energy system, 2005, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laborat ory

Lecture 7 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 7. Due Thursday April 19. No answer key for this one.

Lecture 8: Electricity generation II

Eric Stutz will give this lecture Tuesday 1:30 PM at the normal time and location.
Coal-fired power plant Coal-fired power plant, diagram from Tennesse Valley Authority.

Readings. Read this handout on electricity and the basics of electrical generation if you haven't had physics lately. Everyone should read the relevant part of chapter 5: "Power Plants" from a great book called "Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape" by Brian Hayes. Read from the beginning (p. 186) to the top of p. 199 (or to p. 201 to do gas turbines as well as the steam turbines we've discussed). Optional: For those who are ready for more, there's not much out there that is in between either too basic or too specialized, but this chapter from Klempner and Kerszenbaum's "Operation and Maintenance of Large Turbo-Generators", is moderately readable.

Lecture 8 notes from Lisa.

Problem set 8. Due Tuesday April 24. And answers.

Lab this week: Tues after class - steam engines, electric motors I

Field trip, Th. April 19th U. Chicago steam plant, 1:30 in place of class. Meet in front of steam plant at 56th and Maryland Ave. a bit before 1:30. Wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, long sleeves.

Lecture 9: Electricity generation III, electric motors

660 MW generator 660 MW generator, stator end windings (photo lifted from referenced website).

Readings: Read this 1882 article on the opening of Edison's first power plant in New York and the first lights in the New York Times building, and over 100 years later this 2007 article from the New York Times reporting the shut-down of the last DC power generation from Edison's original New York system.

Read this handout on electric motors before electric motors lab next Tuesday.

Lecture 9 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 9. Due Thursday April 26. And answers.

No lab this week - electric motors lab next Tuesday

Lecture 10: Steam and gas turbines, power plants

Steam Tubine
Steam turbine CAD drawing, from Mechanical Engineer's Weblog.

Required reading: A short letter from Nikola Tesla in 1892 describing his enthusiasm for new turbines that would serve well to drive AC power and be a further advantage to AC as a standard: "It is gratifying to note from his tests that the turbines are being rapidly improved. Though I am aware that the majority of engineers do not favor their adoption. I do not hesitate to say that I believe in their success. I think their principle uses, in no distant future, will be in connection with alternate current motors, by means of which it is easy to obtain a constant and, in any desired ratio, reduced speed. There are objections to their employment for driving direct current generators, as the commutators must be a source of some loss and trouble, on account of the very great speed; but with an alternator there is no objectionable feature whatever".

Also read the Hayes chapter on power plants if you have not done so already.

Optional reading: For those who want to know more about the history of the steam turbine, see this reproduction of a 1942 book about Sir Charles Parsons, its inventor (in 1884), with good text and old photos.

Lecture 10 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 10. Due Tuesday May 1.

Lecture 11: Mechanical energy -> mechanical energy I: hydro

inlet scroll, Francis turbine, Grand Coulee Dam Inlet scroll of one of the Francis turbines of the Grand Coulee Dam, during construction.

Pre-reading for Lectures 11 and 12: the hydro (Tuesday) and wind (Thursday) sections of Hayes chapter 5: "Power Plants". Read from p. 212 to p. 221. If you are going to the electric motors lab, read the electric motors handout.

Lecture 11 slides and notes from Lisa.

Problem set 11. Due Thursday May 3.

Lab after lecture - electric motors

Lecture 12: Mechanical energy -> mechanical energy II: wind (+ a bit of nuclear)

Wind turbine growth in last 25 years Growth of wind turbines over last 25 years (Vestas)

Reading for Lecture 12: the wind section of Hayes Ch. 5 (above).

Optional additional readings on wind: A very readable tutorial (Pao and Johnston), covers the basics of wind power: turbines, generation, control, and even wind farm design. For a narrower and more technical discussion of turbine aerodynamics alone, including a derivation of Betz' law, see this chapter of the book "Wind Energy Explained" (J. Manwell, J. McGowan, and A. Rogers). For specifications for some representative wind turbines, here is a brochure for GE's 1.5 MW turbine, one of the most widely used, and a brochure for the new Clipper Liberty variable-speed wind turbine.

Lecture 12 slides

Also the full slides on nuclear energy, especially for those going on the nuclear field trip.

Problem set 12. Due Tuesday May 8. If you are doing problem 2.1, here is the brochure on the turbines for the Gilgel Gibe hydro project, and a relatively balanced review of African dam issues from the Economist that mentions Gilgel Gibe. If you are doing problem 2.2, you may want to read this review of velocities in rotating systems. The hints for 2.2 #A are at hint 1 and hint 2.

This is the last long problem set of class - from now on problem sets will get shorter to allow you more time on projects - so it is definitely time to be thinking about projects now. (See these guidelines). You should have a project group formed by the end of next week if you don't have one already.

Field trip, Fri. May 4th Dresden Nuclear. Read the nuclear slides above and the nuclear section of Hayes chapter 5: "Power Plants". Watch this video of a chain reaction.

Lecture 13: Wrap-up of wind

Turbulence hind offshore wind turbines at Horns Rev Turbulence behind offshore wind turbines at Horns Rev 1, Denmark (image: Christian Steiness)

Lecture 13 slides.

Problem set 13. Due Thursday May 10, beg. of class (no extensions; we will discuss in class).

No lab this week (Jade Eaton had to defer to next week because of unavoidable project deadline) .

Field trip, Th. May 10th Grand Ridge Wind Farm. Meet at 7 AM in front of Booth (long bus ride so earlier than normal). Bring the waiver form. Wear closed-toe shoes. Cameras are allowed. See wind notes here.

Lecture 14: The physical grid

High-voltage transmission lines High-voltage transmission lines, from NordReg

Pre-reading for lecture 14 For the physical infrastructure of the grid, another chapter from the Hayes book: Chapter 6: The Grid. Optionally, for a neat hyperlinked explanation of household wiring click here. (From here, you can click on "practical circuit concepts" to get a range of electricity tutorials).

Lecture 14 slides.

Problem set 14. Due Tuesday May 15.

Take this survey to determine subjects for the final five (or six) lectures.

Lecture 15: Electricity markets, preview of fossil fuel (oil)

Florida dispatch stack Peninsular Florida dispatch stack. (Note that prices are old and gas/coal difference here is also not reflective of recent drop in gas prices).

Lecture 15 slides.

Problem set 15. Due Thursday May 17. This is virtual tour of oil drilling, pumping, and refining, so do it before the BP Whiting field trip.

Pre-reading before the BP Whiting trip: Everyone who is going should read the relevant parts of the oil and gas chapter of the Hayes book (esp. crude oil on p. 160). Others will have to read this before the fossil fuels lecture.

Lab Tuesday 3 PM: discussion of electricity markets

Field trip, Th. May 17th BP Whiting Oil Refinery. Bus departs Booth 7:00 AM. Send your names to Grant by Wed. morning to go on the trip.

Lecture 16: Internal combustion engines / transportation

Early auto, 1886 Prius engine
L: Gas- or petrol-powered car, Karl Benz, 1886.
R: Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive (gasoline engine + electric motor)

Optional reading: A 1959 Harper's article on the virtues of steam for automobiles, which does indeed have some advantages over internal combustion ... aficionados in the 1950s still thought they could bring back steam.

Lecture 16 slides.

Problem set 16. Due Tuesday May 22.

Lab Thursday 3 PM: internal combustion engines (wear clothes that can get dirty).

Lecture 17: Internal combustion engines II, fossil fuels II: sources

Alberta oil sands Fracking for gas.
L: Alberta oil sands. Image: David Dodge / Pembina Inst.
R: Conventional drilling vs. hydraulic fracturing for gas.

Pre-reading for class: read the oil & gas chapter of the Hayes book.

Lecture 17 slides.

Problem set 17. Due Thursday May 24.

Lab Tuesday 3 PM: lighting.

Lecture 18: Fossil fuels II: extraction, reserves; Solar energy: PV and thermal

Power tower, near Seville Solar photovoltaic array
L: Power tower, near Seville, Spain. Image: Abengoa
R: Solar PV array, Nellis AFB.

Lecture 18 slides.

Lecture 18A (Optional): Liquid fuels, EROEI, solar PV and LEDs, energy storage options

LED light fixtures LED light fixtures, photo from Gizmodo

Lecture 18A slides.

Problem set 18. Due Tuesday May 29.

Lecture 19: Future energy needs, opportunities for efficiencies (buildings, materials)

U.S. energy use history History of U.S. per capita CO2 emissions, equiv. energy use, and Copenhagen emissions target

Read handout on solar PV physics for Tuesday's solar lab. Lab Tuesday 3 PM: solar PV.

Lecture 19 slides.

Field trip, Th. May 31st Argonne (auto lab + solar PV research).


Top panel shows total grades (black) and grades for problem sets only (green). I f the green dot is below the black, that student's grade was raised by the final report (and vice versa for above/lowered). Bottom panel shows the same rank-ord ered grades as the top panel in black, with addition of bonus points now also sh own in blue. Bonus points matter for those students near "grade boundaries." Email to request version with your name.


Problem set mean = 83; median = 86

Overall (weighted 70% problem sets, 30% projects):
Mean = 85; median = 88

Curve median = B+

Copyright E. Moyer 2012