Germany has pledged to transform its electricity supply to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The goal of using renewable energy is reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Germany’s targets are reduction of GHG by 80-85% of 1990 levels by 2050.
Electricity production accounts for 80% of GHG emissions in Germany. Electricity production also accounts for 40% of energy-related CO2 carbon dioxide) emissions. In Germany, 54% of generated electrical power comes from the burning of fossil fuels, especially brown coal, also known as lignite. By shifting electricity production away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, Germany could meet its GHG reduction goals.
As part of sustainability planning, the transition includes consideration of economic benefit, energy security, and environmental benefit. The plan to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is called the Energiewende.
Germany’s renewable energy portfolio includes wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. It is expected that in the short term, sustainable energy will be supplemented by nuclear power and fossil fuel power generated using carbon capture and storage technology. The long-term plan is to phase out nuclear and fossil fuel power plants.
Introduction to Renewable EnergyThis introduction exploration provides background information about the Earth’s atmosphere, greenhouse gases, and sources of greenhouse gases. It discusses Germany's present energy mix, as well as the Energiewende—Germany's strategy to move away from nonrenewable energy sources.
Guiding Question: What is the energy mix of your community?
Activity: Students will compare the energy mix of their community with Germany’s energy mix.
Exploration 1. Wind EnergyStudents will watch the video on Feldheim available on YouTube by the Transatlantic Outreach Program to learn about Feldheim. Then they will investigate energy conversions that allow wind turbines to convert wind power into electricity. Students will design a wind turbine for power generation in their community.
Guiding Question: How could wind energy be harnessed to generate electricity for your community?
Activity: Students will design a wind turbine.
Exploration 2. Solar EnergyStudents will explore how solar energy can be harnessed to generate electricity. Students will use low voltage solar cells to design their own experiment to support their energy proposal for their community.
Guiding Question: How could solar energy be used to provide electricity in your community?
Activity: Students will work collaboratively in small groups or individually to develop a solar energy proposal for their community.
Exploration 3. BioenergyStudents will explore how methane is produced through anaerobic decomposition of organic waste. Students will conduct an experiment to observe how methane is produced by fermentation. They will also explore how bioenergy can be used to generate power in their community.
Guiding Question: How can methane gas be produced efficiently from organic waste?
Activity: Students will conduct an experiment to observe how methane is produced by fermentation. They will use the results to support claims about the benefits and limitations of bioenergy in their community.
Introduction to Renewable Energy (2 periods)
Exploration 1. Wind Energy (2–3 periods)
Exploration 2. Solar Energy (2–4 periods)
Exploration 3. Bioenergy (2 periods and 1 week for fermentation)*
* Note: Please take into consideration that the experiment in Exploration 3, Bioenergy, takes one week to ferment.
Exploration 1. Wind Energy
Items students can use to design a wind turbine
Exploration 2. Solar Energy
- Volt meter
- Solar cells
- Insulated wire
Exploration 3. Bioenergy
- 16-oz or 32-oz plastic bottle with cap (any soda, electrolyte water, or water bottle will do)
- ½ to 1 cup shredded food scraps (vegetables, fruits, or even leftover school lunch)
- 3 to 4 teaspoon organic soil
- 1 beef stock cube
MS.ETS1. Engineering Design
MS.ESS3-2. Weather and Climate
MS.ESS3-3. Human Impact
Key Literacy Connections
Relevant Domain(s) of Disciplinary Core Ideas
ETS1.A. Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
Science and Engineering Practices
Asking Questions and Defining Problems
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World
- Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
- Design a renewable energy plan for their community.
- Apply lesson from Germany to their local community.
After completing all three exploration, students will compare each type of renewable energy source and decide which one (or a mix of) would be the most suitable for their community. They will use the findings about their community’s energy mix to help them establish the best source(s) of renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In groups, students will then develop a community action plan in which they use evidence from their three experiments to explain their choice, and then lay out their ideas for location, design, production, community engagement, and so forth. Ask students to make a slide show or short film with their findings.
Students will share their energy community plan by presenting their slide show or short film to their class, their school, and key community members (e.g., local government officials). They should make strong case for why they believe the plan should be implemented at a community level.
Common Core State Standard Initiative. (2022). Grade 7 Expressions & Equations. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/7/EE/
Common Core State Standard Initiative. (2022). Standards for Mathematical Practice – Reason abstractly and quantitatively. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/MP2/
National Science Teaching Association. (2014). Disciplinary Core Ideas. Retrieved from https://ngss.nsta.org/DisciplinaryCoreIdeas.aspx?id=40&detailid=120
Next Generation Science Standards. (2022). MS.ETS1. Engineering Design. Retrieved from https://www.nextgenscience.org/dci-arrangement/ms-ets1-engineering-design
Next Generation Science Standards. (2022). MS. Human Impacts. Retrieved from https://www.nextgenscience.org/topic-arrangement/mshuman-impacts
Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). Science & Engineering Practice in Next Generation Science Standards. Retrieved from https://static.nsta.org/ngss/resources/matrixfork-12progressionofscienceandengineeringpracticesinngss.8.14.14.pdf
Transatlantic Outreach Program. (2022). STEM Unit 2: Feldheim Renewable Energy. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnbyqKYawTY