A number of organizations, from private enterprises to public-private partnerships and government entities, are engaged in discussion over the future of our nation's energy system, from producing alternative energy, to transmitting power through a smarter grid. As you peruse these sites, be aware of these key terms to better understand the general topic and the particular positions these agencies take.
Global warmingWhile this term alone merits its own article, it can be summarized as the slow but steady intensification of the Earth's average surface temperature. The argument has been over the extent to which man-made greenhouse gases have instigated this effect, but the effect itself has been measured and proven to the science community's satisfaction.
Renewable or sustainable energyWhile you can define both renewable and sustainable energy as energy arising from sources such as solar, wind or geothermal, there are certain connotations that give the two terms slight differences. Sustainable energy is energy developed and used with little or no impact on its future availability, unlike fossil or nuclear fuels, which have finite availability and can be detrimental to the environment. Renewable fuel is fuel that renews itself, like solar or wind power.
GreenGreen has become a key word in the current discussion, referring to alternative energy, general lifestyle and environmentalism.
Energy efficiencyEnergy efficiency is an often overlooked component of alternative energy production. Most major organizations devote at least a portion of their sites to promoting products and services that enable businesses and consumers to lower their current use of energy, using fossil fuels or alternative energy, to save money and the planet.
Solar energySites discussing solar energy focus on two areas: photovoltaic, which involves converting sunlight directly into electricity; and solar thermal, which focuses the sun's heat onto pipes carrying a transfer liquid similar to your car's coolant to drive generators.
Energy Quest gives a brief history lesson on solar energy, explaining solar thermal and photovoltaic alternative energy generators.
Wind energyWind energy is similar to solar thermal energy. Wind power is derived from the sun heating the air.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council talks about the installation and use of small wind-energy systems.