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Minor: Sustainable Energy Systems

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Offered collaboratively by: Biological and Environmental Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Administered by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Contacts: Curricular topics: Jeff Tester, Director, Cornell Energy Institute; Administrative or registrar topics: Carol Casler, undergraduate programs office of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 607-255-8656


All undergraduates at Cornell.

Educational Objectives

Providing affordable energy to meet the demands of both developed and developing nations without further damaging the natural environment and the Earth’s climate system is a Grand Challenge for the 21st century. Our quality of life and the stability of nations ultimately depend on having accessible energy resources and an equitable and sustainable energy supply and distribution system. Achievement of thes goals requires the participation, ingenuity, and hard work of people with a range of specialized backgrounds, working collaboratively. The minor is intended to emphasize the importance of viewing the challenge of meeting the world’s energy needs as a system of interacting themes. The requirements of the minor are designed to provide breadth across a range of energy resource types and conversion, transmission and storage technologies along with coverage of the environmental, economic, political, and social consequences of various options.


  • Six courses and a minimum of 18 credits; at least 3 credits in each category
  • At least two courses in category 2: Energy Sources and Technologies for a Transition to Sustainability
  • At least one course from each of four breadth categories

Four Breadth Categories

  1. Energy Systems Analysis
  2. Energy Sources and Technologies for a Transition to Sustainability
  3. Natural Systems Impacted by Energy Production and Use
  4. Social Impact: Policy, Economics, Business, History, Ethics, and Risk Analysis

* At most two courses may be specific requirements in the student’s Major

Courses satisfying each of the breadth categories:

  1. Energy Systems Analysis
    • BEE 4010: Renewable Energy Systems
    • BEE 4870: Sustainable Bioenergy Systems
    • CHEME 6660: Analysis of Sustainable Energy Systems
    • MAE 5010: Future Energy Systems
  2. Energy Sources and Technologies for a Transition to Sustainability
    Fossil and Nuclear Energy
    • CHEME 5204/5207: Turbomachinery Applications/Hydrocarbon Resources and Petroleum Refining (series of two 1-2 credit hour courses)
    • EAS 4010: Fundamentals of Earth and Minerals Resources
    • EAS 4340: Exploration Geophysics
    • EAS 4370: Geophysical Field Methods
    • MAE 4590: Nuclear Fusion (also NSE 4840)
    • MAE 4590/NSE/AEP/NSE 4840: Introduction to Controlled Fusion: Principles and Technology
    • TAM/AEP/CHEME/ECE/MAE/NSE 4130: Introduction to Nuclear Science and Engineering
    Renewable Energy
    • BEE 4900: Biofuels: The Economic and Environmental Interactions
    • MAE 4020: Wind Power
    Energy Conversion, Distribution, and Storage
    • ECE 4510: Electric Power Systems I
    • ECE 4520: Electric Power Systems II
    • MAE 5430: Combustion Processes
    • MAE 4490: Combustion Engines and Fuel Cells
    • MSE 4330: Materials for Energy Production, Storage and Conversion
    • ORIE 5142: Systems Analysis Architecture, Behavior and Optimization
    • ORIE/CEE 5140/CIS 5040, ECE 5120, MAE 5910 5140: Applied System Engineering
  3. Natural Systems Impacted by Energy Production and Use
    • BEE 3710: Physical Hydrology for Ecosystems
    • BEE 4800: Our Changing Atmosphere: Global Geophysics and Atmospheric Chemistry
    • BEE 6740: Ecohydrology
    • BIOEE/EAS 3500: Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems
    • BIOEE/NTRES 4560: Stream Ecology
    • CEE 4320: Hydrology
    • CHEME 6610: Air Pollution Control
    • EAS/NTRES 3030: Introduction to Biogeochemistry
    • EAS 4400: Seminar: Climate Science, Impacts, and Mitigation
    • EAS 3050: Climate Dynamics
    • EAS 3530: Physical Oceanography
    • EAS 4570: Atmospheric Air Pollution
    • Laboratory and NTRES 4220: Wetland Ecology Lecture
    • MAE/EAS 6480 Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry
    • NTRES 4201: Forest Ecology Laboratory and NTRES 4200: Forest Ecology
  4. Policy/Economics/Business/History/Ethics/Risk Analysis
    • AEM 4510/ECON 4090: Environmental Economics
    • BSOC/STS 2061/PHIL 2460: Ethics and the Environment
    • BSOC/STS 3181: Living in an Uncertain World: Science, Technology and Risk
    • CEE/TOX 5970: Risk Analysis and Management
    • CHEME 6640: Energy Economics
    • DSOC 3240/STS 3241/SOC 3240: Environment and Society
    • ENGRG/ECE/HIST 2500/STS 2501: Technology in Society
    • ENGRG/ECE 3600/STS 3601: Ethical Issues
    • MAE/STS 4000: Components and Systems: Engineering in a Social Context
    • NTRES 3320: Introduction to Ethics and the Environment
    • ORIE 4150: Economic Analysis of Engineering Systems

Consult the web site of the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future for updates regarding requirements and acceptable courses.

Academic Standards

At least C- in each course, or, for S/U Only courses, S.