L82 EnSt 407 RESET: Renewable Energy and Decarbonizing the Grid

Who should apply to this course?

A: All students interested in learning about renewable energy and grid decarbonization. Prior experience or knowledge is not necessary.

Will the course be a traditional lecture-based class or a project-based experiential learning class?

Both. RESET is built with robust “learning” and “doing” components. The first 60% of the semester will focus on learning about the electric grid, renewable energy, and the complex dynamics that govern how we generate and use energy. Students will also have the opportunity to visit utility-scale wind and solar projects and learn from experts in the field. The latter portion of the course is project-based “doing” -- students will propose a detailed solar strategy for buildings owned by the City of St Louis. The project will include in-class and out-of-class work sessions, iterative proposal development with feedback from key stakeholders, and collaborating with your teammates to develop a final recommendation.

The application is asking for my preference on “disciplinary teams.” What’s that all about?

A renewable energy project needs to be (1) viable from an engineering perspective, (2) financially sound, and (3) scaffolded by local, state, and federal policy. For the course project, we assign each student to a sub-team that focuses on one of the three key areas above. Here’s a brief summary of what you would be focusing on for each team:


  • Evaluating prospective buildings for solar viability / suitability: shading analysis, structural assessment, energy demand, etc.
  • Developing solar PV layouts and modeling system output
  • Creating electrical one-line diagrams
  • Partnering with the Business and Policy teams to refine financial models, layouts, and strategy based on the intersection of the three disciplines.


  • Outlining options for deal structure (ex: purchase vs. lease) and recommending a preferred option
  • Developing financial models for each prospective site. Recommending a portfolio of sites that meets the City’s financial constraints and solar goals.
  • Understanding and ensuring all eligible financial incentives are part of proposal


  • Researching current federal, state, and local policy that will impact solar development in the City of St. Louis, including net metering policy, PURPA, and others
  • Work alongside the business and engineering teams to ensure that solar layouts and financial models are consistent with current policy and are structured to take full advantage of all available incentives
  • Researching best-practice state and local policy for supporting solar and developing policy recommendations for state and local policy-makers

If I am interested in multiple disciplines, will I get the chance to learn about them all?

Yes. During the first portion of the semester, all students will have the opportunity to develop a baseline of skills and knowledge in policy, finance, and engineering aspects of renewable energy.

Why does the application have multiple rounds?

RESET is a new class that was approved after the spring enrollment period, and we have a tight timeline for recruitment. As we do not yet have a sense of the enrollment demand, we are structuring the application process with two deadlines. We strongly recommend applying in the first round, as we cannot guarantee that we will have available spots in the second round. After the first round of applications closes on August 11th, we will be reviewing applications and filling spots in the class. If available spots still remain, we will review and admit students from the second round of applications received prior to the August 18th deadline and fill any remaining spots in the class. If the course is not yet full after the second round, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis thereafter until the course is full.

How difficult will this class be? (We know everyone asks.)

A: This course is a 400 level course with regular readings, weekly problem-sets, three individual major assignments, and a final large group assignment. Students should expect an average or slightly above average workload for a 3-credit course.

My schedule is all set for the fall but I’m interested in this class. When will it be offered again?

The tentative plan is to offer RESET each Fall. If you are interested in renewable energy, we recommend subscribing to the email list, joining the WashU Renewable Energy Network on LinkedIn, and joining the WashU Sustainability Network on LinkedIn.

If I have additional questions that were not answered in this section, who should I contact?

Email Phil Valko (instructor) and Sophia Dossin (TA): and

When is this course available?

Learn more about RESET and when the course is available

Course Information