Graduate School of the Environment at Centre for Alternative Technology

Graduate School at the Centre for Alternative Technology
New Skills for a New Future

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MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment

The masters examines the theory and practice of renewable energy technologies and the built environment. It places this topic within the political, economic and social background of energy issues, including global examination of energy provision, consumption, climate change and local environmental considerations. The theory and practice of renewable energy technologies are examined through both practical work and the lecture programme. Specific technologies studied during the masters include hydroelectricity, wind power, biomass, solar thermal, photovoltaics, heat pumps, and combined heat and power systems. Throughout the MSc students are made aware of the relationship between the supply of renewable energy and the demand made by buildings. 

The MSc course is based in the Graduate School of the Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), which has 40 years practical experience pioneering sustainable solutions. The masters programme also draws on visiting specialists from the industry and academia. The course is validated for a masters degree by the University of East London and is accredited by the Energy Institute.

Student Experience

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A masters for the renewable energy industry

  • The masters programme is run by the Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT) which is one of Europe's leading eco-centres and is situated in a stunning location overlooking Snowdonia National Park;
  • Lectures and teaching activities take place in a recently completed and award winning Wales Institute for Sustainable Education Building, which is sensitively constructed out of low embodied energy materials and is a combination of environmentally conscious design and cutting edge green building techniques;
  • The masters programme is validated for the MSc by the University of East London (UEL), with students being registered at UEL for the duration of their studies;
  • The masters programme offers a unique combination of design, evaluation, and practical experience that will equip students with skills that are becoming increasing sought after in all areas of professional practice;
  • Students interact with a large range of onsite working renewable energy technologies throughout the course of their study;
  • Delivery is in the form of 30 credit taught modules and a 60 credit dissertation research module; taught modules are residential events that take place at CAT;
  • A flexible combination of topics can be studied with practical modules offering additional depth of study for key technologies chosen;
  • Leading Professionals and experts from the renewable energy industry are utilised to offer a cutting edge perspective on current policy, practice and research.

A flexible masters course

Renewable energy students

The masters course is offered in both a full time and part time mode of study. All students are required to complete four, 30 credit modules and a dissertation. A part time student can choose and complete four modules over an extended two year period, which also offers additional flexibility in module choice.

Each 30 credit module requires students to attend two five day residential teaching events at CAT, which take place each month between September and May inclusive. Some module options run in parallel with each other during the same month and students choose which technology to follow. The initial combined topic module which takes place in September and October is core to the programme and all students must attend this. Students are also required to complete at least one practical module.

This block learning method and part-time option allows students to continue working or undertaking other projects alongside completing their masters.

Read more about the programme structure.

Course aims and renewable energy careers

The masters course aims to provide a rigorous insight into a range of renewable energy technologies from a technical, economic and environmental perspective. It enables graduates to take up a career in the technical, design, energy efficiency, regulatory, policy and management aspects of delivering renewable energy projects. It also provides a grounding in wider sustainability issues, policy, buildings and energy demand reduction.

The masters programme is suitable for those students with an interest in developing expertise in an area of renewable energy. The part played by renewable energy in the wider environmental agenda and resource management is rapidly increasing in importance and skill shortages are being reported with increasing specialist knowledge required. There is increasing scientific and public concern over the problem of climate change resulting from the continued consumption of fossil fuels. One of the best solutions to this problem is the development of renewable energy technology. The escalating nature of climate change makes the need for renewable energy urgent but expertise in this area is not yet able to meet this need. This masters programme has been developed to meet the specific demands of the industry in its quest to provide much needed expertise in this important area.

The theory and practice of renewable energies are examined through both practical work and academic study. The lecture programme enables students to critically analyse the benefits and drawbacks of renewable energy systems.

The course further aims to provide students with an understanding of the energy issues associated with buildings, as well as providing an overview of climate change and other major environmental challenges.

MSc course content

Students choose from a range of modules covering the major renewable energy technologies, this year that includes:

  • Biomass
  • Solar photovoltaics
  • Wind power
  • Solar thermal
  • Hydro electricity
  • Combined Heat and Power
  • Heat Pumps

The MSc programme also covers building physics and design, energy use, electrical theory, climate change, sustainability, policy, energy markets, regulations and energy in buildings.

Biomass student visit

Modules consist of lectures, seminars, presentations and practical studies. Learning is delivered through a combination of formal and informal methods. Lectures are used to present information, general principles, applications and methods. These are not always student-passive sessions and can be interactive sessions with students participating. Lectures will be enhanced by supporting activities aiming to reinforce student understanding and learning including practical sessions, seminars and tutorials. Group working and field trips are features of Practical Modules. In addition, student presentations aim to develop the necessary skills to clearly describe and present their research on an individual and a group basis.

You can view more details of the content of the masters degree in the programme structure section.

Is this the course for you?

Visit us during one of our postgraduate open days to find out if this course is for you.

You should put in an application before requesting a visit. This is because it is more convenient for both you and CAT to find out in advance if you meet the entry requirements for the masters degree.

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Programme specification

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Programme Handbook

Programme Handbook for 2014-15 academic year only

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Successful completion of the programme MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology leads to the award of Master of Science (MSc) by UEL

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