The third edition Principles of Sustainable Energy Systems textbook was published in September 2018, a collaboration between Emeritus Professor Frank Kreith, PhD alumnus Charles Kutscher and Professor Jana Milford.
Though Kreith died in January before the book was published, he spent his final years alongside Kutscher and Milford doing what he loved most: equipping students with knowledge and critical thinking skills to positively impact the environment. The new edition of Principles of Sustainable Energy Systems builds on Kreith’s lifetime of engineering achievement, his passion for teaching and his early recognition of the need to transition our energy system to one built on clean and sustainable technology.
Kreith’s passion for teaching and protecting the planet took a series of life events to develop. Kreith was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1922. At age 15, he fled to escape worsening persecution of Jews. Unsure if he would ever see his family again, he left with Kindertransport, an organized rescue relocating close to 10,000 predominantly Jewish children to the U.K. Eventually, Kreith immigrated to the U.S., where he attended school during the day and worked at night, earning a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the University of California and a PhD from the University of Paris.
With expertise in heat transfer, Kreith joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Soon after, he began teaching at Berkeley in 1951, at Lehigh University in 1953, and at CU Boulder in 1959. In 1978, he became a leader of the Thermal Sciences Branch, leading solar energy research at the newly formed Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden, now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. There, he also crossed paths with Kutscher who he hired in November 1977, kick-starting Kutscher’s 40-year career with NREL. In 2017, Kreith was awarded the John Fritz medal, considered one of the highest awards in the engineering profession. Kreith is also well-known for his seminal textbook on heat transfer, now in its eighth edition.
Although Kreith was the author of more textbooks than most faculty members ever dream of publishing, he continued this last project because of the great promise he saw in solar and sustainable energy. Kutscher and Milford share this vision. As stated in the Principles of Sustainable Energy Systems preface, “The unsustainability of fossil fuels makes an energy transition necessary. Climate change makes it urgent.”
Central to the success of the third edition textbook were lead author Charles Kutscher, former director of the Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center at NREL and current senior research associate at CU’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute and mechanical engineering and environmental engineering Professor Jana Milford. The book also reflects contributions from former CU faculty members Gary Pawlas and Jan Kreider, PhD alumna Susan Krumdieck and CU students who reviewed chapter drafts and previewed homework problems.
Together, the team combined areas of expertise to bring relevant sustainable energy examples to life. For instance, Milford’s ability to analyze economic and environmental impacts of different technologies and her expertise in environmental policy were complementary to Kutscher’s deep understanding of energy efficiency and renewable energy technology including solar thermal, ocean and geothermal power.
Milford’s involvement in this project began when she and Kreith taught sections of Sustainable Energy, a technical elective and graduate introductory course at CU. She found it inspiring that someone with such a high degree of accomplishment would continue to teach and work with students on design and research projects.
The third edition textbook expands on the second edition’s coverage of renewable energy conversion and storage technologies. Conventional energy technologies, such as fossil fuels and nuclear power, are newly added. Other new chapters include those on energy efficiency and the electric grid. The third edition also features economic and environmental analysis frameworks for sustainability and updated coverage of energy system modeling tools developed at NREL. Kutscher says, “It is important for engineers to learn economics.” He notes that wind and solar power have become increasingly cost-competitive in the years since the second edition of the book was published.
With Kreith’s passing in January 2018, Milford and Kutscher continue to lead the charge in educating students about sustainable energy. They are following in the footsteps of a remarkable pioneer who dedicated many of his 95 years to a cause he couldn’t overlook. Having left a legacy that only a lifelong teacher and prolific author can leave, it is likely that the real fruit of his work is yet to come.