California Academy of Sciences: Optimal and Sustainable - Renewable Energy Revamp

What factors and constraints do we have to consider when designing a renewable energy plan for a community?

About This Lesson

In this lesson, students will be challenged with an optimization problem. The fictitious town of Solutionville has decided to replace coal, their current source for electricity, with more sustainable energy sources. In designing Solutionville’s sustainable energy future, students must consider not only the geographic constraints of various renewable energy options–wind energy, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, and solar energy–but they must also meet specific energy production requirements and budgetary constraints.

While this challenge can be solved using a variety of mathematical skills, the lesson comes with an Excel spreadsheet that has been pre-loaded with all of the cost and energy production parameters that students must work within. The spreadsheet allows students to more efficiently manipulate their energy source options to see what combination maximizes energy production while minimizing cost.

Students should have a basic understanding of fossil fuels and their impacts on the environment before approaching these challenges. It is recommended your students watch the video What’s the Deal With Fossil Fuels? and complete the accompanying lesson The Heat is On: Cause and Effect and Climate before tackling this challenge.

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Energy (Renewable)
Middle School, High School, Educator

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