Environmental impact and sustainability of energy systems
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course deals comprehensively with issues related to energy transformation processes and their impact on the environment. In particular, sustainability is considered with reference to several aspects: energy use, renewable energy, energy transformations, use of fossil fuels in combustion processes in heating systems and thermal engines. Knowledge and understanding: At the end of the course the student will be able to learn about aspects and issues related to world energy consumption and with reference to most important energy sources (both renewable and not) to conversion processes for energy generation and utilization, to related power plants and to final use of energy. He/she will also acquire the basics of thermodynamic cycles and their efficiency with reference to the most common power plants. He/she will then know problems, limitations, advantages and disadvantages of different solutions used and/or proposed nowadays for energy generation and use. Applying knowledge and understanding: The student will be able to develop general assessments of operating characteristics, performance and pollutant emissions of most common power plants used for energy generation from primary sources. He/she will also be able to compare qualitatively and quantitatively (albeit on general evaluations) different solutions for the generation of energy from primary sources.
Making judgments: The student will have the tools and knowledge necessary to make critical evaluations and comparisons of solutions for energy generation and use taking into account the available alternatives. Communication skills: The student will be able to manage the tools needed to effectively present evaluations and comparisons of different solutions for specific processes of energy generation through both graphic and numerical representations concerning the characterization of energy and environmental alternatives.
Learning skills: The student will be able, starting from the basic knowledge given in the course, to acquire by himself information and data that can be useful to evaluate main characteristics of systems and solutions used and/or proposed for energy generation and use.
Attendance at the course requires the knowledge provided by the courses of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Course contents summary
General considerations. The energy balance of the planet: natural and anthropogenic contributions. Energy sustainability: rationalization and use of Renewable Energy Sources. Energy consumption in the world: characteristics of primary energy sources; fossil fuels and renewable sources. Technologies for the use of renewable sources. Solar energy: availability of solar radiation, solar thermal collectors, basic technologies and efficiency for ACS facilities, problems of heat storage. Issues related to solar concentration for medium and high temperature processes for heat and electricity generation. Photovoltaic solar cells: generalities, technologies and features, analysis of various types of PV modules and their characteristics, considerations on stand-alone and grid-connected plants.
Biomass: pros and cons, solid, liquid and gaseous biomass. Availability and characteristics of wood biomass from forest management. Direct combustion, biochemical and thermochemical conversion.
Hydro power: resource availability, technological characteristics of the facilities and management issues, environmental compatibility.
Wind resource: availability, technological characteristics of the plants, environmental compatibility.
Direct and inverse thermodynamic cycles, power generation and cogeneration, heat pumps, compression and absorption and their applications; trigeneration. Combustion processes: reactions, mechanisms of formation of pollutants, methods for estimating emissions. Fuels and their characteristics. Power output from steam plants, gas turbines and internal combustion engines (ICE): main emissions from stationary and mobile applications, and techniques for their reduction.
General aspects. The energy balance of the planet: natural and anthropical contributions. Energy sustainability: rationalization and use of Renewable Energy Sources. Energy consumption in the world and primary energy sources. Characteristics of primary energy sources: fossil fuels and renewable sources. Technologies for the use of renewable sources.
Primary solar source: availability of solar radiation. Solar thermal systems: main technologies and efficiency; flat thermal solar collector without concentration; heating plants; thermal storage problems; vacuum solar thermal collector; hints on the problem of medium and high temperature concentration for process heat and electricity generation. Photovoltaic solar systems: general information on main technologies and their characteristics (costs and efficiency); PV modules; considerations on stand-alone and grid-connected systems.
Biomass: advantages and disadvantages, carbon cycle, solid, liquid, gaseous biomassES. Use of biomasses: direct combustion, biochemical (anaerobic fermentation) and thermochemical conversion (gasification and pyrolysis); availability and characteristics of wood forest biomass; characteristics and use of biogas and syngas.
Emissions from fixed and mobile plants, estimation of specific fuel consumption and specific emissions from engines and power plants. General information on methods for reducing polluting emissions: combustion, post-treatment systems (problems and efficiencies).
Hydraulic energy: availability of the resource; technological characteristics of plants and management problems, environmental compatibility.
Wind energy: availability of the resource, technological characteristics of plants, environmental impacts; methodologies for the evaluation of energy production from wind plants.
Direct and inverse thermodynamic cycles; electricity and cogeneration production; compression and absorption heat pumps and their applications; trigeneration. Combustion processes: reactions, formation mechanisms of pollutants, methods for emissions estimations. Fuels and their characteristics. Internal and external combustion, premixed and diffusive combustion.
General information on main power plants for energy generation: steam plants, gas turbines and alternative internal combustion engines (MCI).
Topics discussed during the course are reported following the same approach and the same nomenclature in the following book: M.Bianchi, A.De Pascale, A.Gambarotta, A.Peretto – “Sistemi energetici - Impatto ambientale” - vol.3, pp.1-544, ISBN 88-371-1754-X, Pitagora Editrice, Bologna, 11/2008.
Suggested readings for extended studies can be found in:
S.Turns, “An introduction to Combustion. Concepts and Applications”, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1996
R.Vismara, "Ecologia Applicata", Hoepli, 1992
Slides, notes and all the supporting material (drawings, plant schemes, Excel spreadsheets, media) will be uploaded to the Elly Platform: to download them from Elly enrollment in the online course is required. For non-attending students, staying up-to-date on the course through the Elly platform is strongly suggested.
Lectures will be developed partly online and partly in person (during the hours provided in the timetable): in both cases they will be recorded on the Teams platform and available on Elly (elly2020.scvsa.unipr.it). Lectures will be focused on the basic knowledge required to study energy conversion and use processes from primary energy sources. As part of the course, some numerical examples will also be presented to enable the student to acquire the necessary familiarity with the units of measurement and the evaluation of operating characteristics of systems used for energy generation and use.
To complement learning methods so far, if possible technical visits to power plants and seminars will be organized on specific topics given by specialists in the field.
The teacher is available online through the Teams platform during the reception hours and also by appointment (e-mail) for explanations.
Assessment methods and criteria
The assessment of learning is carried out through the final exam only, which ensures the acquisition of knowledge and skills (i.e. acquisition of learning outcomes) through an oral interview that will be carried out online via the Teams platform.
At the student's choice, it can alternatively consist of:
(1) two theoretical questions on the topics covered in the course and on the application of the theory to even original problems: each of the two questions is assessed on a scale from 0 to 30. To pass the exam it is necessary for both questions to be graded is at least equal to 18/30.
(2) a presentation from the Student (using the preferred tools, e.g. Powerpoint) of an in-depth study consisting of an original investigation related to a specific supply chain, solutions, processes used, proposed or applicable for the generation and use of energy. The study must also contain quantitative assessments (even if in principle) developed independently and critically by the Student on the chosen topic. During the presentation, questions will be asked for clarification on the topic addressed: in particular the critical ability, the quality of presentation and the ability to correlate the topics covered will be evaluated.
The final grade is communicated at the end of the exam session.
Please note that online registration for the exam is MANDATORY to take the final exam.
It is strongly recommended to listen to all the lectures of the course.