wind turbines

ENGR3015/INTR3015: The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Energy, Environment, and Society

Instructor: Eugene Rutz and Sid Thatham

Offered:  Fall 2023

Requires a study tour to Scotland


Scotland closed its last reaming coal-fired power plant in 2016.  This country of 5 million people (similar to Wisconsin, less than half of Ohio) is on target to have all of its electricity demand met by renewable energy this year.  How can Scotland achieve this while here in the US we can’t even agree that we should try to reduce our use of fossil fuel?

The “how” has at least two components:

1. The answer to Scotland’s energy needs is in fact blowing in the wind – wind generates approximately 60% of Scotland’s electricity needs

2. The people of Scotland, citizens and government alike, have demonstrated a commitment through action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Energy use and its impact on the environment are increasingly important and contentious issues.  Our views on energy and environment are often shaped as much by culture as by science and technology.  These are not local issues; countries and societies around the world are all faced with making difficult choices regarding energy use and climate change.  Since even local decisions can have global consequences, a global understanding of these issues is essential.  To make informed choices as a society individuals need knowledge of sources, costs and impacts; individuals need to be able to make appropriate choices among alternatives; and individuals need to make these choices within a political decision making process.  This course prepares students to make informed decisions and prepares students to clearly articulate the complexities faced in making these choices.

Fees and Grants

Program fee: $4200
UHP grant: $1200  (subtracted from program fee)
UC International grant: $1000 (subtracted  from program fee)

Total amount due to UC: $2000 in addition to personal expenses.

image of salter duck mechanism and machinery
graph showing U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source

Why take this course?

The course is interdisciplinary.  Experts from multiple disciplines, from inside and outside the university, will all contribute to the content and discussions. 

The course is participatory.  While facts, figures and concepts form a significant part of the course, so do discussion, dialogue and exploration.  Students will need to work with others, research ideas, develop shared understanding of solutions to problems, and communicate ideas effectively.

The course informs life.  All technological approaches, especially energy use, require tradeoffs among alternatives, include a variety of constraints, and result in consequences for society.  The course helps students become more technologically literate so they can make more informed choices and participate in democratic decision making.

The course is global.  We will examine energy use, community attitudes and government regulations in the US and Scotland to better understand how energy decisions are made and the consequences of these decisions.  This is not an abstract exercise: we will meet with industries who are large users of energy but who seek to lower carbon emissions; we will meet with researchers who are working to make alternative forms of energy available and affordable; and we will talk with ordinary individuals to gain a local perspective on energy and environment.

solar panels

Important to Note

This course did not include a study tour to Scotland in 2020, 2021, or 2022.

Past Offerings