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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, 607-255-1489


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 these 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 most two courses may be specific requirements in the student’s Major
  • 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

Courses satisfying each of the breadth categories:

  1. Energy Systems Analysis
    • BEE 4010: Renewable Energy Systems
    • BEE 4870: Sustainable Bioenergy Systems
    • CHEME 6650: Energy Engineering
    • CHEME 6660: Analysis of Sustainable Energy Systems
    • MAE 5010: Future Energy Systems
  2. Energy Sources and Technologies for a Transition to Sustainability
    1. Fossil and Nuclear Energy
      • CHEME 5204/5207: Turbomachinery Applications/Petroleum Product Refining (series of two 1-2 credit hour courses)
      • CHEME 6650: Energy Engineering
      • CHEME 6666: Unconventional Natural Gas Development from Shale Formations
      • CHEME 6670: Fossil Fuels Module
      • CHEME 6671: Nuclear Energy Module
      • EAS 4010: Fundamentals of Earth and Minerals Resources
      • EAS 4340: Exploration Geophysics
      • MAE 4580/AEP/CHEME/ECE/NSE/TAM 4130: Introduction to Nuclear Science
        and Engineering
      • MAE 4590/AEP/ECE/NSE 4840: Introduction to Controlled Fusion: Principles and
    2. Renewable Energy
      • AEP 5500: Applied Solid State: Physics of Renewable Energy
      • BEE 4880: Applied Modeling and Simulation for Renewable Energy Systems
      • BEE 6940: Graduate Special Topics in Biological and Environmental Engineering; Topic: Applied Optimization in Engineering, Energy, and the Environment (offered alternate years)
      • CEE 6200: Water-Resources System Engineering
      • CHEME 6661: Bioenergy and Biofuels Module
      • CHEME 6662: Solar Energy Module
      • CHEME 6663: Geothermal Energy Module
      • CHEME 6664/CEE 6364: Hydrokinetic and Aerodynamic Energy Module
      • MAE 4020: Wind Power
      • MSE 5150: Structures and Materials for Sustainable Energy Systems
    3. Energy Conversion, Distribution, and Storage
      • CEE 4650: Transportation, Energy, and Environmental Systems for Sustainable
      • CHEME 6650: Energy Engineering
      • CHEME 6667/CEE 6667: Transportation Energy Systems Module
      • CHEME 6672: Energy Transmission, Distribution and Storage Module
      • CHEME 6674: Energy Metals Module: Source, Use and Challenges
      • ECE 4510: Electric Power Systems I
      • ECE 4520: Electric Power Systems II
      • ECE 5870/CHEME 5870: Energy Seminar I, or
        ECE 5880/CHEME 5880: Energy Seminar II (one credit only)
      • MAE 5430: Combustion Processes
      • MAE 4490: Combustion Engines and Fuel Cells
      • MSE 4330: Materials for Energy Production, Storage and Conversion
      • SYSTEN 5100/CEE 5240/ECE 5120/MAE 5910/ORIE 5140: Model Based Systems Engineering
      • SYSTEN 5200/CEE 5252/ECE 5130/MAE 5920/ORIE 5142: Systems Analysis Behavior and Optimization
  3. Natural Systems Impacted by Energy Production and Use
    • BEE 3710: Physical Hydrology for Ecosystems
    • BEE/EAS 4800: Our Changing Atmosphere: Global Geophysics and Atmospheric
    • 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 3050: Climate Dynamics
    • EAS 3530: Physical Oceanography
    • EAS 4400: Seminar: Climate Science, Impacts, and Mitigation
    • EAS 4570: Atmospheric Air Pollution
    • EAS 4850: Climate Information and Management (energy-related project required)
    • EAS 3880: Global Geophysics
    • MAE/EAS 6480: Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry
    • EAS/CHEME 6677: Seismic Risk in Energy Development
    • EAS/CHEME 6668: Earth Systems Behavior and Resources Module
    • EAS/CHEME 6669: Earth Energy Science and Engineering Module
    • NTRES 4201: Forest Ecology Laboratory and NTRES 4200: Forest Ecology
    • NTRES 4221: Wetland Ecology Laboratory and NTRES 4220: Wetland Ecology
  4. Policy/Economics/Business/History/Ethics/Risk Analysis
    • AEM 4510/ECON 4090: Environmental Economics
    • BEE 5400: Engineering Ethics and Professional Practice
    • 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
    • CHEME 6673: Tools for Analyzing Energy and Society Module
    • CHEME 6675: Energy Life Cycle Assessment Module
    • 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
    • NTRES 3320: Introduction to Ethics and the Environment
    • ORIE 4150: Economic Analysis of Engineering Systems

Consult, the web site of the 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.