About the course
In recent decades there’s been increasing global concern about the sustainability of our use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, which has led to increased interest in more sustainable renewable energy sources.
These ‘renewables’ have been utilised for centuries, in water mills, windmills and wood stoves, but in recent years we’ve developed the technology to utilise these natural power sources on a much larger scale.
This course uses the four Greek elements as the weekly themes to study renewable energies: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
We've collated a range of free content for you to take your learning further with more in-depth free courses and features on this fascinating subject.
If you follow our free Elements of Renewable Energy course on FutureLearn, in week four you’ll uncover more about Hydroelectricity, a well-established technology, delivering in 2011 about 16% of the world’s annual electricity. Additionally you’ll find out why a major hydropower plant will have both positive and negative effects on the surrounding ecology and local communities.
As you work through each week of the course, stop by OpenLearn to find articles, podcasts and plenty more so you can explore that week's topics in more depth.
Become an OU student of the Environment
The Open University offers a range of degree courses and modules in Environment & Development as well as a MSc in Environmental Management.
To find out more about our range of short courses starting from £160 visit our short courses page.
Dig deeper into week four
In week three you'll discover how solar radiation can be converted into energy to provide heat and light. You'll also find out how, since the 1980s, solar district heating has been used as power for areas in mainland Europe.
In week two you'll look into wind energy, a pollution-free means of generating mass electricity and find out about the positive and negative impact on the environment.
In week one you find out what renewable and sustainable energy sources are; you look at the differences between primary energy, delivered energy and useful energy; and you discuss climate change and the contribution to global warming.