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Energy future

  1. Jul 27, 2014 #1
    Hello everybody,
    I am Victor Moussalli, 17 years old, just starting grade 12 of high school. My passion is energy efficiency. The only types of engineering that I like are: environmental, energy, and electrical. I want to know what is the best path to take; university or not, to guarantee a good job later on as many of my older buddies are now struggling to find jobs despite their engineering majors.
    Thank you,
    Victor Moussalli
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2014 #2

    I would recommend mechanical engineering or electrical engineering
  4. Jul 27, 2014 #3
    Based upon history, Caldweab's advice has been a good bet. To build better energy efficiency, you need to know how things are built and then how to build them better.

    Engineering in general is a good bet. Society will need engineers. However, right now, companies world-wide are experiencing an economic slump of the sort that hasn't been seen in many decades. Engineers get hired sooner as recessions end, so if you're looking to get hired in four or five years, this isn't a bad bet.

    But it is still a bet. I don't have a crystal ball. If I had the ability to say with good certainty that your selection is guaranteed to work, I'd make Warren Buffet (the billionaire investor) look like a poor man. But I don't. And neither does anyone else.
  5. Jul 27, 2014 #4
    I agree with the above. Electrical and mechanical engineering are great.

    I know some schools have a new program called 'energy engineering'. I just graduated from one that added that program in like 2012. Based on career prospects, id think mechanical and electrical are better.
  6. Jul 29, 2014 #5
    Hello, thank you for your answer. I've had people tell me that one was better than the other. I'm still confused by which one would work best with energy?
  7. Jul 29, 2014 #6

    Depends on what side of energy you want to be on? If you want to generate energy go with mechanical engineering, if you want to work on transmission and storage then go with electrical engineering. I wanted to work with power generation and fuel sources so I chose nuclear engineering which is actually a sub field of mechanical engineering and the core curriculum is mechanical engineering as well. I will then get a MS in mechanical engineering with a focus in energy systems or mass and heat transfer
  8. Aug 1, 2014 #7
    I want to generate energy (and expand it) and work in this field. So I should do mechanical then specialize in energy?Any university suggestions?
  9. Aug 1, 2014 #8
    What do you guys advise me to do if I wanna work in energy?
    Major in energy
    Major in EE
    Major in ME
    Major in EE,minor in energy
    Major in ME,minor in energy
    Major in ME,minor in EE,specialization energy
    Major in EE,minor in ME,specialization energy
    Major in physics,minor in maths,THEN any of the above.
    None(in this case please suggest for me..)
    Please answer with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9
    I need an urgent answer because I am lost.
  10. Aug 1, 2014 #9

    Major in mechanical engineering. I don't know of any schools that offer a minor in energy. Actually I take that back there are some schools that offer studies in energy my own university does but only at the masters level. I say go ME, no matter how you're generating power you'll always have some mechanical devices designed to generate this energy and turn it into a usable form, i.e. Electricity.
  11. Aug 1, 2014 #10
    I am not an expert on engineering by a long shot. But I would imagine the mechanical engineering tasks in solar energy are somewhat limited to things like designing a robust case for the panels. That is perhaps not exactly what fuels the OPs "passion" for energy.

    @energypassion9: As a side-note: I think it is not very common to put progress in energy production under the label "energy efficiency". In my experience, "energy efficiency" usually related to various improvements on the consumption side, most notably reduced energy consumption.
  12. Aug 1, 2014 #11

    Not really. Engineers design and develop the entire systems that are used. The physics and science behind the systems are developed by scientist. Engineers take that theory and science and build something useable. Likewise if you go to a power plant you don't see a physicist running a reactor or maintaining it, engineers do that as well.
  13. Aug 1, 2014 #12

    Do you think ME alone is the 'best' path to be able to have maximum chance to work in the energy efficiency field?
  14. Aug 1, 2014 #13

    What do you think is the best path if I want to actually work in reduced energy consumption?
    I didn't get your point (after you said as a side note)
  15. Aug 1, 2014 #14
    I apparently misunderstood your post I referred to, then. The context I was replying to was that amonst all sub-fields of engineering, mechanical engineering is the one to go without a doubt because all energy generation systems require mechanical engineering (you must admit your post can be interpreted this way). I wasn't aware that natural science was still an option at this point. I of course agree with the statement that natural scientists are not as involved in the field as engineers.
  16. Aug 1, 2014 #15
    My point is that
    - in your first post, you said your passion is "energy efficiency"
    - later, you said you want "to generate energy"

    All I said is that if you want "to generate energy", then calling it "energy efficiency" may mislead the people you speak to. They might interpret "energy efficiency" as referring to efficient use of energy, not efficient generation of energy. Not a big point. But I found it worth mentioning, since the two statements seemed a bit contradictory to me. And more importantly: It might to others.
  17. Aug 1, 2014 #16

    Yes sure. It is important to mention it,thanks.. The fact that all the energy topic interests me is why I keep saying differents parts of it.. I want to work in anything in energy, I don't really know which path to take and I need urgent help:(
  18. Aug 1, 2014 #17
    As another note not directly answering your question but possibly interesting for you (maybe obvious, maybe not): Energy is not only electricity. In fact, the largest shares of energy usage are non-electric mobility (cars, planes, ...) and heating. The possibly most exciting future development prospected is the merge of the energy fields by technologies like eletric cars and heat pumps.
  19. Aug 1, 2014 #18

    jim hardy

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    Gold Member


    Practical solar just preheats feedwater for a fossil boiler, thereby reducing fuel consumption by whatever is the solar input.
    That way the utility can still use the plant to make power at night instead of having all that investment sit idle fourteen hours a day.
    So the mechanical side is pumps, heat exchangers, fluid systems, thermodynamics, turbines, - in short a mechanical engineer's paradise.
    http://www.laurenec.com/news/IPR_0811_Lauren_Email.pdf [Broken]

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/images/photo_segs_power_plant.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  20. Aug 1, 2014 #19
    I was thinking of photovoltaics when I said "solar". But it's a good input to mention that PV is not the only way to use direct solar power.
  21. Aug 1, 2014 #20
    Mr. Hardy makes a very important point: Most of our experience with power generation using PV is very limited in scale. However, we have extensive experience working with steam turbines and solar energy is a great way to heat (or preheat) water for steam.

    Another possibility that you did not mention is very near and dear to my heart: Control Systems Engineering. Basically Control Systems Engineers are Engineers with a bit more emphasis on the mathematics of control theory (Laplace transforms, advanced differential equations, linear algebra, etc.) and materials (what sort of packing material should you use with a valve that will be exposed to 550C steam?).

    Control Engineers are as close to the issue as possible without actually being an operator. Basically, they design the control algorithms and the process so that the goals are achievable and consistent. The control systems are the actual methods by which plants save energy, start up more rapidly and shut down more safely while reducing waste.

    And yes, I'm biased. I'm a control systems engineer.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  22. Aug 1, 2014 #21

    Yes. As my hardy explained power generation uses a lot of thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid dynamics coupled with things like turbines, pumps and heat exchangers. All of that is mechanical engineering. It does not matter what the furnace is, take for example a nuclear power station where the furnace is nuclear energy, the system still has to be designed using thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid dynamics. Even if you decide you want to work on new methods of power generation you'll still need those concepts. We generate energy in the form of heat and then we use mechanical devices to transform this energy into useable forms. Someone said something about energy used in transportation, while it's true that those particular applications use heat energy they still use the same devices. In fact the radiator in your car is a condenser. What does it do? It dumps excess heat, and condenses steam back to water to recirculate through your engine. Where does that come from? Thermodynamics. Nuclear power plants also use condensers and they do the exact same thing. So you see it does not matter what you plan to use the energy generated for
  23. Aug 2, 2014 #22

    Yep, thanks for pointing this out;)
  24. Aug 2, 2014 #23
    Will this lead to work in the energy field where I will be generating energy or anything?
    Thanks for your reply it really helped:)
  25. Aug 2, 2014 #24


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    Will what lead to work? In order to design and construct an energy system, one needs a basic understanding of the system. Designing and constructing an electrical generation system requires knowledge in the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering, but also civil/structural engineering.

    Other than PV, which requires knowledge of semiconductor, which could be obtained through a program in EE or Engineering Physics, or perhaps Physics, most systems start with transforming mechanical energy from a working fluid, e.g., wind turbine converts wind energy into rotational kinetic energy of the turbine, a hydro turbine converts the flow of water into rotational kinetic energy of the water turbine, and a steam or gas turbine converts the mechanical energy in flowing steam or gas to the rotational kinetic energy of a steam or gas turbine. So energy generation often starts with extracting/converting/transforming energy from a working fluid to rotational kinetic energy of a shaft.

    The shaft usually drives a rotator to which are attached magnets, and it is the rotating (time-varying) magnetic field that induces a voltage/current that is the electrical energy. That's where the electrical engineering enters the picture. One may study electromechanics and control theory in EE.

    For any energy generation system, maximizing efficiency is desirable, but it is perhaps more critical for systems using finite resources, such as fossil fuel and nuclear, simply because such resources would be depleted over time. On the other hand, for wind and hydro, which are indirect solar resources, maximizing thermodynamic efficiency maybe less critical, although it is still desirable.

    Maximizing efficiency of direct solar systems, e.g., solar thermal and PV, is desirable from an economic/cost perspective. Ideally one gets more energy for less material/cost. A limiting factor for direct solar systems is the land or surface area required to produce a given amount of energy. There is also the consideration that solar is not available at night, or during cloudy weather, so an alternative source is needed, or some of the daily energy generation must be stored to cover the time when direct solar is not available.

    Besides thermodynamic efficiency, there are considerations for reliability (minimize wear and tear) and availability (how much of the time: daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, . . . is the system producing energy, as opposed to shutdown or repair, or unable to generate due to lack of the primary energy source).

    Various utilities and nations are expanding the use of renewable energy systems, so there are career opportunities available.
  26. Aug 2, 2014 #25
    I thank you for this great answer!!
    I was wondering, what do you advise me to do from choices 1 to 9? I really need your help!!
    Thank you a million times.
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