Free Online Courses to Learn About Sustainable Energy

Climate change is, and will continue to be, one of the most challenging problems that the world will have to face. It impacts every single person, touches every single country, so the world will have to come together on a global level to confront this challenge together.

The topic is so complex that there are multiple paths you can pursue, depending on your interests. Whether you want a general overview of the science behind what is happening to cause climate change, or you want to better understand how you can make a difference on a local level, or you want to change how the world adopts different forms of energy, the best place to start adding to your knowledge and contributing to the conversation is with taking a course and obtaining knowledge one day at a time.

I found some interesting (and free) online courses – I’ve organized them by high-level topic:

  • Global Warming / Climate Change
  • Sustainable Energy
  • Solar / Photovoltaic Power
  • Electric Cars
  • Environmental Protection

Hopefully you find one that interests you. Happy learning!

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Global Warming / Climate Change

The Climate Energy Challenge (HarvardX)

This course will examine future climate change in the context of Earth history, and then consider various strategies for what might be done to deal with it. The likely impact of continued greenhouse gas emissions will be explored, emphasizing the scientific uncertainties associated with various predictions, and how this can be understood in the context of risk.

Introductory e-Course on Climate Change (UN Climate Change Learning Partnership)

This course provides “everything you need to know” about the basics of climate change, from climate change science to governance. One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UN CC:Learn) is a collaborative initiative involving more than 30 multilateral organizations which supports countries in designing and implementing country-driven, results-oriented and sustainable learning to address climate change.

Global Warming Science (MIT)

This course provides students with a scientific foundation of anthropogenic climate change and an introduction to climate models. It focuses on fundamental physical processes that shape climate (e.g. solar variability, orbital mechanics, greenhouse gases, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and volcanic and soil aerosols) and on evidence for past and present climate change. During the course they discuss material consequences of climate change, including sea level change, variations in precipitation, vegetation, storminess, and the incidence of disease. This course also examines the science behind mitigation and adaptation proposals.

Global Climate Change: Economics, Science & Policy (MIT)

This class introduces scientific, economic, and ecological issues underlying the threat of global climate change, and the institutions engaged in negotiating an international response. It also develops an integrated approach to analysis of climate change processes, and assessment of proposed policy measures, drawing on research and model development within the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial (The University of Queensland)

Climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? Learn to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial.

Climate Change: The Science (The University of British Columbia)

Do you want to talk about climate change from an informed perspective? Are you interested in how global warming works? Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time, and climate science is critical to finding solutions. How can we make the best decisions about our present and future? By taking this course, you can be part of the global conversation. Climate Change: The Science is an introduction to climate science basics. We’ll discuss flows of energy and carbon in Earth’s climate system, how climate models work, climate history, and future forecasts.

Sustainable Energy

Introduction to Sustainable Energy (MIT)

This class assesses current and potential future energy systems, covering resources, extraction, conversion, and end-use technologies, with emphasis on meeting regional and global energy needs in the 21st century in a sustainable manner. Instructors and guest lecturers will examine various renewable and conventional energy production technologies, energy end-use practices and alternatives, and consumption practices in different countries. Students will learn a quantitative framework to aid in evaluation and analysis of energy technology system proposals in the context of engineering, political, social, economic, and environmental goals.

Sustainable Energy: Design a Renewable Future (Delft University of Technology)

A transition to sustainable energy is needed for our climate and welfare. In this engineering course, you will learn how to assess the potential for energy reduction and the potential of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass. You’ll learn how to integrate these sources in an energy system, like an electricity network and take an engineering approach to look for solutions and design a 100% sustainable energy system.

Sustainability in Everyday Life (Chalmers University of Technology)

Daily headlines warn of new chemical dangers, species on the edge of extinction, global warming– framing our planet as “at risk.” Some people stop listening, others get alarmed, while some others want to learn more in hopes of making a difference in the world. Do you want to live a more sustainable life? In this environmental studies course, you will learn how to make more informed choices about your ecological footprint and gain a better understanding of how your choices impact on our world.

Solar / Photovoltaic Power

Solar Energy (Delft University of Technology)

In […] Solar Energy, you will learn to design a complete photovoltaic system. This course introduces the technology that converts solar energy into electricity, heat and solar fuels with a main focus on electricity generation. Photovoltaic (PV) devices are presented as advanced semiconductor devices that deliver electricity directly from sunlight. The emphasis is on understanding the working principle of a solar cell, fabrication of solar cells, PV module construction and the design of a PV system. You will gain a greater understanding of the principles of the photovoltaic conversion— the conversion of light into electricity. This course explores the advantages, limitations and challenges of different solar cell technologies, such as crystalline silicon solar cell technology, thin film solar cell technologies and the latest novel solar cell concepts as studied on lab-scale. We will discuss the specifications of solar modules and demonstrate how to design a complete solar system for any particular application.

Fundaments of Photovoltaics (MIT)

Fundamentals of photoelectric conversion: charge excitation, conduction, separation, and collection. Lectures cover commercial and emerging photovoltaic technologies and cross-cutting themes, including conversion efficiencies, loss mechanisms, characterization, manufacturing, systems, reliability, life-cycle analysis, risk analysis, and technology evolution in the context of markets, policies, society, and environment.

Electric Cars

Electric Cars: Technology, Business, and Policy (Delft University of Technology)

If you are interested in learning about the electric vehicle technology and how it can work for your business or create societal impact, then this is the course for you. You’ll explore the most important aspects of this new market, including state-of-the-art technology of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure; profitable business models for electric mobility; and effective policies for governmental bodies, which will accelerate the uptake of electric mobility. After completing this course, you will be able to understand EV technology, implement a new strategy for your company’s fleet management, develop a citywide policy for emission-free mobility, or create a unique e-mobility business model.

Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection and Sustainability (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev – IsraelX)

Do you want to understand more about the environmental problems we currently face? Do you want to learn ways we can reduce the negative effects of these problems, and keep our environment more sustainable? In this multi-disciplinary course, we will discuss major challenges facing environmental protection efforts. In doing so, we’ll bring together various aspects from three themes: Biological, Physical, and Human. No previous knowledge on environmental issues is needed. Join us for a diverse and unique course and become a protector of the environment.

I’m currently participating in MIT’s Introduction to Sustainable Energy online course. I have always been an advocate for solar and wind power, but this opinion was 99% based on how I perceived these energy sources. Instead of following intuition, I wanted to get a technical background and a better fundamental understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of all types of energy sources because nothing is without its flaws. I hope to share my new knowledge with all of you in time.

Will you be taking any of these course?

Sustainable energy will be the way of the future. If you've ever been interested in entering the industry or educating yourself about the energies of the future, here are some online courses that are offered for FREE by amazing educational institutions. Spread the knowledge. Keep learning and growing and we can make the world a better place.