Undergraduate Teaching 2017-18

Engineering Tripos Part IIB, 4B19: Renewable Electrical Power, 2015-16

Engineering Tripos Part IIB, 4B19: Renewable Electrical Power, 2015-16

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Module Leader

Dr R McMahon


Dr R McMahon and Dr M Ainslie

Timing and Structure

Michaelmas term. 16 lectures (including examples classes). Assessment: 100% exam


3B4 useful


The aims of the course are to:

  • introduce the main electrical technologies that underpin the generation of renewable electrical power and its integration into the existing electrical transmission and distribution network.


As specific objectives, by the end of the course students should be able to:

  • know the various sources of renewable electrical energy and be able to quantify the theoretical energy available from these.
  • understand the characteristics of wind turbines and the technologies required to match these to generate power to the existing electrical grid.
  • understand the theory of asynchronous machines used for large-scale wind generation and why they find widespread use in this application.
  • know the theory of permanent magnet and salient pole synchronous machines, and their role in wind generation and hydroelectric/tidal barrage schemes.
  • quantify the power available from waves and know the means of extracting that power.
  • appreciate the vital role that power electronics plays in renewable electrical power systems.
  • have an understanding of electrical power systems, know how they are modelled, and appreciate the impact of connecting renewable energy sources to it.
  • understand how economics and government policy affects renewable electricity decision making.


Overview of renewable technologies (2L, Dr R A McMahon)/Overview of wind generation (1L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Characteristics of wind energy.
  • Offshore vs onshore wind power.
  • Theoretical power available.
  • Practical power available – Betz limit.
  • Introduction to turbine design and operation.
  • Tip-speed ratio and efficiency.
  • Fixed speed vs variable speed operation.
  • Control of wind turbines.
  • Comparison of alternative electrical technologies.

Induction generators for large scale wind power (2L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Basic induction generator theory.
  • Equivalent circuit and its use to predict performance.
  • Stand alone induction generators and use of capacitors.
  • Introduction to slip energy recovery systems and variable speed operation.

Brushless doubly-fed induction generators (1L, Dr R A McMahon)/Permanent magnet generators for small/medium scale wind power (1L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Overview of permanent magnet generators.
  • Basic theory and equivalent circuit.
  • Generator characteristics and calculations.
  • Advantages for small/medium wind power installations.

Introduction to hydroelectric and tidal barrage schemes (1L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Quantifying the energy available from hydro and tidal barrage schemes.
  • Role within electrical supply system – constant power vs pumped storage operation.
  • Turbine design – influence of head of water.
  • Salient pole synchronous generators – theory and calculations.

Wave power (2L, Dr R A McMahon) Power electronics for renewable electricity (2L, Dr R A McMahon) Introduction to power systems analysis (2L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Overview of UK grid.
  • Role of renewables in UK energy mix.
  • Control of real and reactive power flows.
  • Introduction to load flow calculations.
  • Role of power electronics (flexible ac transmission systems)
  • Integration of renewable power into existing grid.
  • Embedded generation.

Introduction to economics of renewable electricity (1L, Dr T J Flack)

  • Introduction to basic economic concepts.
  • Simple cost model.
  • Inclusion of interest rate/inflation – discounted cash flow analysis.
  • Case studies: large hydroelectric plant; small domestic wind turbine vs solar photovoltaics.
  • Government incentives and their effects.

Examples Class 1L, Dr T J Flack/Dr R A McMahon)


Please see the Booklist for Group B Courses for references for this module.

Examination Guidelines

Please refer to Form & conduct of the examinations.


The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) describes the requirements that have to be met in order to become a Chartered Engineer, and gives examples of ways of doing this.

UK-SPEC is published by the Engineering Council on behalf of the UK engineering profession. The standard has been developed, and is regularly updated, by panels representing professional engineering institutions, employers and engineering educators. Of particular relevance here is the 'Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes' (AHEP) document which sets out the standard for degree accreditation.

The Output Standards Matrices indicate where each of the Output Criteria as specified in the AHEP 3rd edition document is addressed within the Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering Triposes.

Last modified: 01/07/2015 12:14