Green Energy: An A-to-Z Guide


Edited by: Dustin Mulvaney & Paul Robbins

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      About the Editors

      Green Series Editor: Paul Robbins

      Paul Robbins is a professor and the director of the University of Arizona School of Geography and Development. He earned his Ph.D. in Geography in 1996 from Clark University. He is General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (2007) and author of several books, including Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction (2010), Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are (2007), and Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (2004).

      Robbins's research centers on the relationships between individuals (homeowners, hunters, professional foresters), environmental actors (lawns, elk, mesquite trees), and the institutions that connect them. He and his students seek to explain human environmental practices and knowledge, the influence nonhumans have on human behavior and organization, and the implications these interactions hold for ecosystem health, local community, and social justice. Past projects have examined chemical use in the suburban United States, elk management in Montana, forest product collection in New England, and wolf conservation in India.

      Green Energy General Editor: Dustin Mulvaney

      Dustin Mulvaney is a Science, Technology, and Society postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. His current research focuses on the construction metrics that characterize the life cycle impacts of emerging renewable energy technologies. He is interested in how life cycle assessments focus on material and energy flows and exclude people from the analysis, and how these metrics are used to influence investment, policy, and social resistance. Building off his work with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition's “just and sustainable solar industry” campaign, he is looking at how risks from the use of nanotechnology are addressed within the solar photovoltaic industry. Mulvaney also draws on his dissertation research on agricultural biotechnology governance to inform how policies to mitigate risks of genetically engineered biofuels are shaped by investors, policy makers, scientists, and social movements.

      Mulvaney holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering, both from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Mulvaney's previous work experience includes time with a Fortune 500 chemical company working on sulfur dioxide emissions reduction, and for a bioremediation startup that developed technology to clean groundwater pollutants like benzene and MTBE.


      All human activities rely on transformations of energy. Energy, the ability to change a system, constitutes everything from human metabolism to how humans move about the planet. On Earth most of the energy we encounter originates from solar activity, with the exception of relatively smaller amounts of gravitational and internal heat. For most of human history, this solar energy was available in the form of biomass that humans directly ate, or used for heat, light, and cooking. But since the industrial revolution we have witnessed what the historian Lewis Mumford has called carboniferous capitalism; human civilization is drawing down the stocks of accumulated solar energy found in the form of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas to supply our heat, electricity, and transportation fuels. This reliance on stocks of fossil fuel energy helped maintain the illusion that we were getting something for nothing.

      But we now know that the extractions and transformations of fossil fuel energy come at a considerable cost and raise many questions about the sustainability of our energy supply as the conventional energy system confronts the realities of climate change, material limits, and environmental degradation. The use of fossil fuel energy is a major intervention in the carbon cycle as carbon (in hydrocarbons) moves from being sequestered in oil and gas pockets and coal seams below the Earth's surface to carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This has led most scientists, including those represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to suggest that fossil fuel extraction is a significant component of anthropogenic climate change because of the role of CO2 in causing the greenhouse affect. This, in turn, has forced many to suggest limits on the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere, where it is currently believed that up to an 80 percent reduction in global CO2 emissions will be necessary to stabilize atmospheric CO2 emissions—if that is even possible.

      The depletion of fossil fuel stocks has led to calls to refocus energy generation on renewable energy sources in the face of impending scarcity and resource limitations. Claims about peak oil—Hubbert's Peak, for example—suggest that the increasing cost of extracting fossil fuel energy resources in more remote locations, from deeper and further afield, will raise the costs of extraction significantly, perhaps to the point at which it is not worth recovering. This implies that even if we do not “run out” of oil materially, we will run out from an economic perspective since the costs of extraction could cause fossil fuel prices to be greater than the prices for alternatives.

      There are environmental and social impacts of fossil fuel extraction that go far beyond the impacts to the carbon cycle and fossil fuel scarcity. There are considerable impacts of land use change, air and water pollution, and toxic waste associated with our energy system. Take coal extraction as an example. Coalmining in West Virginia has dramatically altered the landscape as the “overburden” (hilltops that contain seams of coal) is blasted into streambeds to flatten the landscape, while massive surface mines in Wyoming, where larger seams of low sulfur coal are extracted, leave behind large contoured pits. Water is contaminated where piles of mine tailings leach toxic metals into groundwater. Air is polluted from coal combustion by among other things the cadmium and mercury found in coal, or the sulfur dioxide emissions that eventually are incorporated into the water cycle as acid rain. All while the fly ash left behind in giant ponds at coal power plants leaks lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, arsenic, and other toxic metals from behind the impounded levy walls, threatening downstream community water resources and ecological habitats with steady seepage or catastrophic breaches.

      Even some alternatives to fossil fuels could have vital impacts. Hydroelectric and nuclear energy sources, both of which do not emit CO2 during operation, have other impacts that may fail to meet resource limitations and sustainability criteria. There are only so many places with large-scale hydroelectric capacity and where it has been adopted it is hindered by substantial social strife and ecological impacts. Likewise, uranium used in nuclear reactors is also in relatively short supply, and comes with enormous uncertainties about risks of accidents, costs, water pollution, waste disposal, and nuclear proliferation. While earlier times saw hydroelectric and nuclear energy sources as panaceas, they now face considerable scrutiny.

      Our green energy future will rely on energy sources that do not utilize fossil fuels, that minimize environmental impact, and that replenish themselves by drawing on energy that presently flows from the sun or the Earth. Renewable energy makes up only a small percentage of the energy used today. While some statistical reporting includes large scale hydroelectric in the category of renewable, most limit the definition to small scale hydroelectric, solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, and biomass sources. If we consider the stocks of fossil fuels buried beneath Earth's crust as the past products of photosynthesis, flows of solar, wind, and biomass energy are produced with current solar income. This notion that fossil fuel use is spending down the savings has led to widespread calls for more renewable sources of energy. Although many of these sources come with environmental and social tradeoffs, the switch to green energy is seen as a means to combat climate change, avoid peak oil, and lower toxic effluents and emissions, all while helping foster energy independence and revive the manufacturing economy.

      But the key questions for green energy will be how to foster the innovations, policies, and behavioral transformations necessary to reduce the impacts of energy production and contract the carbon footprints of large energy consumers. Most recently this discussion has taken place through the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change where the Kyoto Protocol and its potential successor—a multilateral agreement currently dubbed the Copenhagen Accord—aim to commit countries to binding emissions reductions. But it is not clear what exactly this will entail. Will it be a carbon tax or carbon trading and offsetting? What will be the role for nuclear, hydroelectric, and clean coal technology? One outcome of the December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was an agreement to promote carbon sequestration through decreased deforestation and forest degradation. While this was an important step with multiple benefits, it does not address fossil fuel combustion. Reducing the carbon footprint of the global economy will require incentives for innovation in non-fossil fuel energy sources and efforts to reduce consumption by organizations, nations, and individuals.

      This volume provides an overview of the social and environmental dimensions of our energy system, and the key organizations, policy tools, and technologies that can help shape a green energy economy. Each entry draws on scholarship from across numerous disciplines in the social sciences, natural and physical sciences, and engineering. The urgency of climate change helps underscore the importance of getting the right technologies, policies and incentives, and social checks and balances in place. The green energy challenge faced by human civilization will require many minds and a great effort on all fronts. We hope this collection of entries can provide those with an interest in green energy to participate in what will hopefully become an equitable and intergenerational conversation about the impacts of our energy consumption and how to make it cleaner and greener.

      DustinMulvaney, General Editor

      Reader's Guide

      List of Articles

      List of Contributors

      Auerbach, Karl, University of Rochester

      Boslaugh, Sarah, Washington University in St. Louis

      Boudes, Philippe, University Paris West Nanterre la Défense

      Brahinsky, Rachel, University of California, Berkeley

      Bremer, Leah, San Diego State University

      Bridgeman, Bruce, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Burns, William C. G., Santa Clara University School of Law

      Carr, David L., University of California, Santa Barbara

      Casalenuovo, Kristen, Virginia Commonwealth University

      Chakraborty, Debojyoti, Independent Scholar

      Chalvatzis, Konstantinos, University of East Anglia

      Chatterjee, Amitava, University of California, Riverside

      Chatterjee, Sudipto, Winrock International India

      Coleman, Jill S. M., Ball State University

      De Lucia, Vito, Independent Scholar

      de Souza, Lester, Independent Scholar

      Deaner, Hugh, University of Kentucky

      Downie, David, Fairfield University

      Ehrhardt-Martinez, Karen, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

      Evans, Tina, Fort Lewis College

      Evrard, Aurélien, Sciences Po Paris/Centre for Political Research (CEVIPOF)

      Eysenbach, Derek, University of Arizona

      Field, Chris, Carnegie Institution for Science

      Finley-Brook, Mary, University of Richmond

      Gabbard, R. Todd, Kansas State University

      Gareau, Brian J., Boston College

      Golden, Elizabeth L., University of Cincinnati

      Goodier, Chris, Loughborough University

      Gopakumar, Govind, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

      Gray, Lindsay L., Alexander Gorlin Architects

      Gray, Steven A., Rutgers University

      Harper, Gavin, Cardiff University

      Harrington, Jonathan, Troy University

      Hurst, Kent, University of Texas at Arlington

      Iles, Alastair, University of California, Berkeley

      Isaacson, Marjorie, CNT Energy, Center for Neighborhood Technology

      Isherwood, William, Chinese Academy of Sciences

      Kakegawa, Michiyo, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Keirstead, James, Imperial College London

      Keith, Ron, George Mason University

      Kinsella, William J., North Carolina State University

      Kline, Charles, University of Richmond

      Kofoworola, Oyeshola Femi, University of Toronto

      Kumar, P. Vijaya, Project Directorate on Cropping Systems Research, India

      Mazze, Sarah, University of Oregon

      McKechnie, Jon, Independent Scholar

      McKinney, Vanessa, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

      Mudd, Gavin M., Monash University

      Norris, Timothy, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Olanrewaju, Ajayi Oluseyi, Covenant University, Nigeria

      Panda, Sudhanshu Sekhar, Gainesville State College

      Papadakis, Maria, James Madison University

      Pearce, Joshua M., Queen's University

      Pellegrino, Michael, Architect, AICP, NCARB

      Phadke, Roopali, Macalester College

      Price, Jessica, University of Wisconsin–Madison

      Ren, Guoqiang, University of Washington

      Santana, Mirna E., University of Wisconsin–Madison

      Schelly, Chelsea, University of Wisconsin–Madison

      Sherman, Daniel, Independent Scholar

      Smith, Susan L., Willamette University College of Law

      Star, Anthony, CNT Energy, Center for Neighborhood Technology

      Valero, Alicia, Independent Scholar

      Valero, Antonio, Independent Scholar

      Vora, Rathin N., University of Rochester

      Vynne, Stacy, University of Oregon

      Wang, Yiwei, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Waskey, Andrew J., Dalton State College

      Whalen, Ken, American University of Afghanistan

      Williams, Akan Bassey, Covenant University

      Winograd, Claudia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

      Zhang, Yimin, University of Toronto

      Zimmermann, Petra, Ball State University

      Green Energy Chronology

      c. 500,000 b.c.e.: The first humans use fire.

      12,000–6000 b.c.e.: During the Neolithic Revolution early humans learn to domesticate plants and animals, developing agriculture and beginnings of settlements in the Fertile Crescent. Previously gathered plants are sowed and harvested, while wild sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle are herded instead of hunted.

      c. 6500 b.c.e.: The first known application of metalworking with copper begins in the Middle East.

      4000–3000 b.c.e.: In a seemingly simultaneous innovation, fledgling civilizations in Europe and the Middle East use oxen to pull sledges and plow fields.

      3200 b.c.e.: The wheel is used in Ancient Mesopotamia.

      c. 3000 b.c.e.: Mules are used as cargo animals in the Middle East, fueling the earliest long-distance trade routes.

      c. 3000 b.c.e.: Chinese, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman settlements use heat from the sun to dry crops and evaporate ocean water, producing salt.

      1200 b.c.e.: Ancient Egyptians show knowledge of sailing, but Ancient Phoenicians become the first to efficiently harness the power of the wind, using early sailboats to develop an extensive maritime trading empire.

      1000 b.c.e.: Egyptians use petroleum-based tar to help preserve the human body during the process of mummification.

      1000 b.c.e.: The first known consumption of fossil fuels occurs in China. Coal is unearthed, and likely used to smelt copper in rudimentary blast furnaces.

      600 b.c.e.: A rudimentary form of a magnifying glass is used to concentrate the sun's rays on a natural fuel, lighting a fire for light, warmth, and cooking.

      200 b.c.e.: Greek scientist Archimedes is said to have used the reflective properties of bronze shields to focus sunlight and set fire to Roman ships, which were besieging Syracuse. In 1973 the modern Greek Navy recreated the legend, successfully setting fire to wooden boats 50 meters away.

      100 c.e.: The Greeks invent the waterwheel.

      100–300: Roman architects build glass or mica windows on the south-facing walls of bath houses, and other buildings, to keep them warm in the winter.

      500: Roman cannon law, the Justinian Code, establishes “sun rights” to ensure that all buildings have access to the sun's warmth.

      500–900: The first known windmills are developed in Persia; uses include pumping water and grinding grain.

      700: In Sri Lanka, the wind is used to smelt metal from rock ore.

      1088: A water powered mechanical clock is made by Han Kung-Lien in China.

      1300s: The first horizontal axis windmills, shaped like pinwheels, appear in Western Europe.

      1306: England's King Edward I unsuccessfully tries to ban open coal fires in England, marking an early attempt at national environmental protection.

      1347–50: In just three short years the Bubonic Plague, a disease transferred from rats to humans, spreads across European Trade routes, engulfing the continent and decimating over one-third of the population.

      1500s: Early in the century, Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci proposes the first industrial applications of solar concentrators. He also is the first to describe a precursor to the water-driven turbine.

      1582: Water wells pump the first water from the Thames River into London for irrigation.

      1600s: The Dutch master drainage windmills, moving water out of low lands to make farming available. During the Protestant Reformation, they use windmill positions to communicate to Catholics, indicating safe places for asylum.

      1601: William Gilbert publishes De Magnete, one of the earliest extensive works on electricity and magnetism.

      1690: Progressive Governor William Penn requires that one acre of forest be saved for every five that is cut down in the newly formed city of Philadelphia.

      1712: A piston-operated steam engine is built by Thomas Newcomen in England.

      1752: Benjamin Franklin attaches a key to a damp kite string, and flies it into a thunder cloud. He observes sparks from the key running down the string to his hand, discovering that lightening is electrical in nature.

      1767: Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure is credited with building the world's first solar collector, a simple glass box that traps sunlight. Sir John Herschel would elaborate on the invention, proving that solar collectors could heat water to its boiling point.

      1769: An improved steam engine is patented by James Watt in England. Later he invents the rotary steam engine.

      1786: Italian physician Luigi Galvani pioneers bioelectricity, the study of nerve cells passing signals to muscles via electricity, after his research with frog's legs and static.

      1789: German chemist Martin H. Klaproth is credited with the discovery of the element uranium. The metal is later used in fission research and the development of nuclear weapons and reactors.

      1803: American Robert Fulton builds the first steam-powered boat.

      1808: Sir Humphrey David invents a battery-powered arc lamp. It is one of the first electric-powered lighting systems to be commercialized.

      1816: Scottish clergyman Robert Stirling receives a patent for the first heat engine using a process that improves thermal efficiency, now called the Stirling Cycle. He calls his invention the Heat Economiser.

      1818: The first steamship, the Savannah, crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

      1820: English scientist Michael Faraday conducts experiments into electromagnetism, demonstrating that electricity can produce motion. He later invents the electric dynamo.

      1821: The first U.S. natural gas well begins drilling in upstate New York.

      1830: Steam-driven cars become commonplace on the streets of London.

      1839: French physicist Edmund Becquerel discovers the photovoltaic effect, the process by which electromagnetic radiation (typically visible light) is absorbed by matter (typically a metal) which in turn emits electrons, creating electricity. The effect would later become the physics behind the development of a solar panel.

      1841: Construction is completed on the Croton Aqueduct. For the next hundred years, the distribution system carries water 41 miles south to New York City using only the force of gravity.

      1850s: Americans Daniel Halladay and John Burnham work to build and commercialize the Halladay Windmill, designed for use in the American west. Encouraged by their developments, they found the U.S. Wind Engine Company.

      1855: English engineer Henry Bessemer revolutionizes the steel industry with the development of the Bessemer process, which uses oxidation to remove impurities from iron. The process makes steel significantly easier and quicker to produce, making its price comparable to iron and fueling expansive infrastructure construction in modern nations.

      1860s: French mathematician August Mouchet first proposes the idea of a solar-powered steam engine. He later patents his invention.

      1860: The first internal combustion engine is built by Etienne Lenoir in Belgium.

      1862: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln creates the Department of Agriculture, charged with promoting agriculture production and the protection of natural resources.

      1864: Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell demonstrates that electricity, magnetism, and light are all manifestations of the same phenomenon, the electromagnetic field.

      1879: The U.S. Geological Survey is established, responsible for examining national geological structure and natural resources.

      1879: American inventor Thomas Edison invents the incandescent electric light bulb. After repeated attempts with using metal, he finally succeeds using carbon-based filaments.

      1880s: While working for the U.S. Wind Engine Company, Thomas O. Perry conducts extensive wind power experiments, attempting to build a more effective windmill. He invents a windmill that uses gears to reduce the rotational speed of the blades. Perry starts the Aermotor Company to sell his advanced windmill, which becomes indispensable for Midwestern farmers and ranchers who use windmills to pump water for livestock. Later, steel blades are developed for windmills. This innovation, combined with a significant amount of American families relocating west, makes windmills an essential source of power. Mills are used for pumping water, shelling corn, sawing wood, and milling grain.

      1880: The world's first concrete-arch dam, the 75-Miles Dam, is built in the Australian city of Warwick.

      1882: The first electric power stations of New York and London go on line.

      1882: The world's first hydroelectric power station, the Vulcan Street Power Plant, is built in Appleton, Wisconsin.

      1883: American inventor Charles Fritts builds the world's first working solar cell. It has an efficiency of about 1 percent.

      1887: German physicist Heinrich Hertz discovers that ultraviolet light will lower the lowest possible voltage of a metal, causing an electric spark to jump between electrodes.

      1888: Charles F. Brush adapts the first large windmill to generate electricity, in Cleveland, Ohio. Electricity generating mills are coined “wind turbines.” General Electric later acquires Brush's company, Brush Electric.

      1891: Baltimore inventor Clarence Kemp patents the first commercial solar water heater.

      1896: The first offshore oil wells, built on wooden piers, begin drilling off the coast of California.

      1896–1903: While studying phosphorescence, French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel (son of Edmond Becquerel) discovers a chemical reaction that does not require an external source of energy, called radioactivity. He later wins the Nobel Prize for discovering radioactivity, along with Marie and Pierre Curie, who discover radium the same year. Their work, combined with numerous others, provides strong evidence that atoms have the potential to release immense amounts of energy.

      1905: American Albert Einstein publishes his Theory of Relativity, revolutionizing human understanding of energy by unifying mass, energy, magnetism, electricity, and light. He also publishes his paper explaining the photoelectric effect. He later wins the Nobel Prize.

      1908–17: Ernest Rutherford fires alpha particles at gold foil and discovers that atoms have a small charged nucleus that contains the majority of the atom's mass. He wins the Nobel Prize for his discovery. In 1917 he successfully splits an atom for the first time.

      1920: The Federal Power Act establishes the Federal Power Commission, an independent agency responsible for coordinating federal hydropower development. The commission is later given authority over natural gas facilities and electricity transmission. It is eventually overtaken by the Department of Energy.

      1929–70: Venezuela is the world's top oil exporter.

      1930: General Motors and DuPont introduce Freon, synthetic chemicals widely used in air conditioners and refrigerators until the 1980s, when regulatory agencies ban their use because of harm caused to Earth's ozone layer.

      1932: The nucleus of an atom is split for the first time in a controlled environment by physicists John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton under the direction of Ernest Rutherford.

      1932: English scientist Francis Bacon develops the first practical fuel cell.

      1936: Construction is completed on The Hoover Dam. The 725-foot arch is the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure. For a total cost of $49 million, it will eventually power the American west with more than four billion kilowatt-hours per year. Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir, is formed by water impounded from the dam.

      1938: European physicist Otto Hahn and collaborators discover nuclear fission. Prompted by previous researchers, they bombard uranium with neutrons, bursting the atoms into trace amounts of the much lighter metal, barium, and releasing leftover energy in the process.

      1939: In August a letter is drafted by Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, signed by American Albert Einstein, addressed to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, advising him to fund nuclear fission research as means to a weapon, in the event that Nazi Germany may already be exploring the possibility. In September Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II. In October a secret meeting results the creation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium for the purpose of securing the element and using it in research to create an atomic weapon.

      1940: The British MAUD (Military Application of Uranium Detonation) Committee is established for the purposes of investigating the possibility of using uranium in a bomb. The next year they publish a report detailing specific requirements for its creation.

      1941: Plutonium is first identified by Glenn Seaborg, who immediately recognizes its potential in ongoing atomic weapon research. On December 7th, the largest attack on American soil occurs when Japanese war planes ambush the naval base Pearl Harbor. The next day the United States enters World War II by formally declaring war on Japan. In the following week, Germany and Italy declare war on America.

      1941: The world's first megawatt-size wind turbine is made functional on a hill in Vermont, Grandpa's Knob. During World War II it is connected to the local electrical distribution system, providing electricity for the city of Castleton. The 1.25-megawatt turbine operates for approximately 1,100 hours before a blade failure occurs, caused by a lack of reinforcement due to war time shortages.

      1942: The Manhattan Engineer District or the Manhattan Project is established by the Army Corps of Engineers, directed by physicist Robert Oppenheimer. The project makes the development of a nuclear weapon a top Army priority and begins to outline methods for construction, testing, and transportation of an atomic bomb.

      1943: Italian geothermal fields produce about 132 megawatts of power.

      1943: Under the growing threat that German scientists may be outpacing the Allies, U.S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sign the Quebec Agreement. Teams of British scientists join the Manhattan Project.

      1945: In July the world's first nuclear explosion, the Trinity test, occurs in the desert of New Mexico. In August American forces detonate two atomic bombs on Japanese soil. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are effectively obliterated, losing 140,000 and 80,000 people, respectively. In the following week, Japan surrenders to Allied powers.

      1946: After World War II, the U.S. Congress creates the Atomic Energy Commission for the purpose of regulating the development of nuclear technology, and states that the committee is to be placed under civilian, not military, control.

      1947: Solar buildings in the United States are in high demand. Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company publishes the book, Your Solar House, profiling the nation's top solar architecture experts.

      1947: Diesel/electric trains replace steam locomotives in the United States.

      1954: The first Russian nuclear power plant opens.

      1954: American photovoltaic technology makes a giant leap when scientists at Bell Labs develop the world's most efficient solar cell at 6 percent efficiency, enough power to run everyday electrical equipment.

      1955: American Architect Frank Bridgers designs the world's first commercial office building with solar water heating and a passive design, the Bridgers-Paxton Office Building, in New Mexico.

      1955–90: First proposed in 1955 as the Air Pollution Control Act and later as the Clean Air Act of 1963, the Air Quality Act of 1967, the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970, and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 and 1990, the U.S. government enacts similar legislation regarding hazardous emissions into the atmosphere. Finally, met with criticism due to bureaucratic methods, the Clear Skies Act of 2003 amends much of the previous legislation. A significant amount of all the provisions are designed toward energy companies.

      1959: NASA launches the Explorer VI satellite. It is built with an array of over 9,000 solar cells.

      1960: The first solar powered coast-to-coast conversation takes places from New Jersey to California by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

      1962: Experimental developments into satellite communications between America and Britain, across the Atlantic Ocean, prove successful when Telstar 1 is launched. The world's first working communication satellite delivers transatlantic phone calls, television pictures, and fax messages between the United States and England.

      1964: NASA launches the first Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, powered by a one-kilowatt photovoltaic array.

      1964: U.S. President Johnson signs the Wilderness Act into law. Over nine million acres of land are closed to excavation.

      1967: The first commercial microwave, for use in homes, is introduced.

      1970s: With help from the Exxon Corporation, American Dr. Elliot Berman designs a significantly cheaper solar cell, which equates to a cost of $20 per watt, instead of $100 per watt. Solar cells begin powering navigation and warning lights on offshore oil rigs, lighthouses, and railroad crossings. Domestic solar technology is considered a feasible alternative in remote rural areas, where utility grids are too costly.

      1970: Earth Day is made a national holiday, to be celebrated April 22nd of each year. It is founded by U.S Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in. It is celebrated by many countries throughout the world.

      1970: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is created to enforce federal environmental regulations. The agency's mission is to regulate chemicals and protect human health by safeguarding air, land, and water.

      1970: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is created for the purpose of developing efficient ways of using the country's marine resources.

      1971: U.S. and British scientists begin development for the first wave energy system.

      1972: The Institute of Energy Conversion is established at the University of Delaware.

      1972: The U.S. Congress passes the Ocean Dumping Act, requiring companies to file for licenses from the Environmental Protection Agency to dump wastes into national waters. After heaps of medical waste wash up on the shores of New Jersey in 1988, Congress bans the dumping outright.

      1973: The Arab Oil Embargo begins as a response to the U.S. decision to supply the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War between Arab nations and Israel.

      1974: The U.S. Department of Energy forms a branch dedicated to national research and development of solar energy, the Solar Energy Research Institute.

      1974: After sharp increases in the price of oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) lead to a major American energy crisis, The Energy Reorganization Act is signed into law replacing the Atomic Energy Commission with the Energy Research and Development Administration, responsible for oversight of nuclear weapons, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission responsible for commercial nuclear safety. The act also requires the future creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, set to contain one million barrels of oil. Because of the same crisis, the U.S. government begins federally funding wind energy research through NASA and the Department of Energy, coordinated by the Lewis Research Center.

      1975: In another response to the energy crisis, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations are passed by the U.S. Congress, intending to improve the average fuel economy of consumer vehicles. In 2002 the National Academy of Sciences reviews the regulations, and finds they are responsible for a decrease in motor vehicle consumption by 14 percent.

      1976: The NASA Lewis Research Center begins installing solar power systems across the world. They will provide power for lighting, water pumping, grain milling, electricity, refrigeration, and telecommunications. However, the project won't be complete for another 20 years.

      1977: Still reeling from the oil crisis, the U.S. Department of Energy is created. The new department will coordinate several already established programs, assuming the responsibilities of Energy Research and Development Administration. The Energy Information Administration is responsible for independent energy statistics. The Office of Secure Transportation provides secure transportation of nuclear weapons and materials. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is given jurisdiction over commercial energy including electricity and natural gas, as well as managing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

      1978: In a final measure to avoid another energy crisis like the one started in 1973, the National Energy Act of 1978 is passed by the U.S. Congress. It includes a host of new statutes attempting to redefine how the country secures, consumes, and comprehends energy. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) promotes the greater use of renewable energy. The law regulates a market for renewable energy produces, forcing electric utility companies to purchase from these suppliers at a fixed price. Cogeneration plants become the industry standard. Another law enacted under the National Energy Act is the National Energy Conservation Policy Act, which requires utility companies to employ energy management strategies designed to curb the demand for electricity. Another law enacted gives an income tax credit to private residents who use solar, wind, or geothermal sources of energy. Also created is the “gas guzzler tax,” which makes the sale of vehicles with a gas mileage below a specified EPA-estimated level liable to fiscal penalty. The Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act and the Natural Gas Policy Act are also passed as part of the National Energy Act.

      1978: Supertanker Amoco Cadiz runs aground of the coast of France, emptying the entire cargo of 1.6 million barrels into the water. It is the largest oil spill in history and causes an estimated U.S. $250 million in damages.

      1978: The NASA Lewis Research Center installs a photovoltaic system on an Indian Reservation in Arizona. It provides power for pumping water and residential electricity in 15 homes until 1983, when grid power eventually reaches the village.

      1979: A partial core meltdown occurs at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, releasing radioactive gases into the Pennsylvania air. An investigation later concludes that no adverse health effects will be perceptible to the community.

      1980: The Crude Oil Windfall Profits Act creates what is technically an “excise tax” imposed on the difference between the market price of oil and a base price that is adjusted for inflation. It also increases tax credits for businesses using renewable energy.

      1980: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is formed as a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to advance energy efficiency as a fast, cheap, and effective means of meeting energy challenges. The agency works on state and federal levels helping shape energy policy in favor of energy conservation, focusing on the end-use efficiency in industry, utilities, transportation, and human behavior.

      1981: American engineer Paul MacCready, in addition to being credited with designing the first practical human-powered aircraft in 1977, invents the world's first solar-powered aircraft. He flies his Solar Challenger from France to England, across the English Channel.

      1982: Adventurous Australian Hans Tholstrup drives the first solar-powered automobile. He travels a total of 2,800 miles. Tholstrup later founds a world-class solar car race.

      1983: Worldwide, photovoltaic product exceeds 21.3 megawatts, a $250 million industry. Three out of four power plants in the United States still burn fossil fuels.

      1985: To meet a drastic rise in demand for electricity, California installs enough windmills to exceed 1,000 megawatts of power, enough to supply 250,000 homes with electricity. By 1990 California is capable of more than 2,200 megawatts, about half of the world's capacity.

      1986: The world's largest thermal facility is commissioned in Kramer Junction, California.

      1986: The most significant nuclear meltdown in history occurs in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The entire area is subject to nuclear fallout. With some local residents unable to evacuate, generations of families suffer from intense radiation.

      1987: The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act authorizes the Department of Energy to set minimum efficiency standards for space conditioning equipment and other appliances each year, based on what is “technologically feasible and economically justified.”

      1991: U.S. President George Bush announces that the Solar Energy Research Institute has been designated the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Its mission is to develop renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies and practices, advance related science and engineering, and transfer knowledge and innovations to addressing the nation's energy and environmental goals by using scientific discoveries to create market-viable alternative energy solutions.

      1992: Under President Clinton, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 is passed by Congress. It is organized under several titles enacting legislation on such subjects as: energy efficiency, conservation and management, electric motor vehicles, coal power and clean coal, renewable energy, alternative fuels, natural gas imports and exports, and various others. Among the new directives is a section that designates Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent disposal site for radioactive materials from nuclear power plants. It also reforms the Public Utility Holding Company Act to help prevent an oligopoly and provides further tax credits for using renewable energy.

      1992: Energy Star is established as a unified standard for energy-efficient consumer products. The Energy Star logo begins to appear on things like computers, kitchen appliances, laundry equipment, air conditioners, lighting, and various other energy saving products. Consumers who own Energy Star-endorsed products can expect a 20 to 30 percent reduction in energy usage.

      1993: U.S. Windpower is one of the first companies to develop a commercially viable, variable-speed wind turbine over a period of five years. Funding for the project is supported by various utility companies, including the Electric Power Research Institute.

      1993: Pacific Gas & Electric installs the first grid-supported photovoltaic system in California. In the same year the National Renewable Energy Laboratory completes construction of its Solar Energy Research Facility, immediately recognized as the most energy-efficient U.S. government building.

      1993: The U.S. Green Building Council is founded as a nonprofit trade organization that promotes self-sustaining building design, construction, and operation. The council develops the Leaders of Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and organizes Greenbuild, a conference promoting environmentally responsible materials and sustainable architecture techniques.

      1995: A U.S. Department of Energy program makes great advances in wind power technology. The new turbines can generate electricity with a cost of only $.05 per kilowatt hour.

      1996: The U.S. upgrades a solar power tower into Solar Two, demonstrating that solar energy can be stored efficiently, resulting in power production even when the sun isn't shining. It sparks intense commercial interest in solar power towers.

      1996: Facing major financial problems, Kenetech, the top U.S. producer of wind generators stops production and sells most of its assets.

      1997: A national global climate change initiative, the Million Roofs Initiative, administered by the Department of Energy, is established, setting a goal of one million new solar energy systems to be installed in the United States by 2010. The initiative's objectives also include: evaluating greenhouse gas emissions, expanding energy options, creating energy technology jobs, removing market barriers, and generating grassroots demand for solar technologies.

      1998: American scientist Subhendu Guha is the leading inventor of flexible solar shingles, a state-of-the-art technology for converting sunlight into electricity. The shingles operate on the same principles as conventional solar cells: sunlight falls on thin layers of silicon stimulating an electrical current for the building.

      1999: In New York City, construction is completed on 4 Times Square. The building has more energy-efficient features than any other commercial skyscraper, including solar panels that produce part of the power.

      2000s: The photovoltaic cell continues to be the primary source of power for U.S. space programs.

      2000s: Alternative fuels for automobiles begin to enter the mainstream consumer market, including hydrogen and electric-powered vehicles.

      2000: The Biomass Research and Development Board is created as part of a U.S. Congress act attempting to coordinate federal research and development of bio-based fuels obtained by living (as opposed to long dead, fossil fuels) biological material, such as wood or vegetable oils. Biofuel industries begin to expand in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

      2001: England's gas giant, British Petroleum (BP), announces the opening of a service station that features a solar-electric canopy. The station is the first in the United States (Indianapolis) and is a model that BP intends to use to revamp stations.

      2002: Union Pacific Railroad installs blue-signal rail yard lanterns, which incorporate energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) technology and solar cells, at a flagship rail yard in Nebraska.

      2003: Power Light Corporation installs the largest rooftop solar power system in the United States, a 1.18-megawatt system in at Santa Rita Jail in California. It uses 30 percent less electricity.

      2005: The Energy Policy Act is passed by the U.S. Congress, signed into law by George W. Bush, making sweeping reforms in energy legislation, mostly in the way of tax deductions and subsidies. Loans are guaranteed for innovative technologies that avoid greenhouse gases, and alternative energy resources such as wind, solar, and clean coal production are given multimillion dollar subsides. For the first time wave and tidal power are included as separately identified renewable technologies. On the local level, individual tax breaks are given to Americans who make energy conservation improvements in their homes. However, total tax reductions greatly favor nuclear power and fossil fuel production, and the bill is later met with criticism. During the 2008 Democratic Primary, candidate Senator Hillary Clinton dubs it the “(Vice President) Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill.”

      2007: Wind power accounts for about 5 percent of the renewable energy in the United States.

      2007: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007) is passed by the U.S. Congress. Its stated purposes are “to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean, renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government,” as well as various other goals. Title I of the original bill is called the “Ending Subsidies for Big Oil Act of 2007.” Included in the new provisions is a requirement of government and public institutions to lower fossil fuel use 80 percent by 2020. Also included is the repeal of much of the legislation included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

      2008: In August the National Clean Energy Forum is attended by industry leaders, scientists, and policymakers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to discuss the future of green energy.

      2009: Amid a global recession, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is one of the inaugural acts signed by President Barack Obama. Otherwise known as the “stimulus package,” it mostly makes provisions for job creation, tax relief, and infrastructure investment, but is also heavily focused on energy efficiency and science. Multibillion dollar funding is appropriated toward energy-efficient building practices, green jobs, electric and hybrid vehicles, and modernizing the nation's electric grid into a smart grid that uses digital technology to save energy. In the official seal of the act, an illustration of a fertile bright green plant is placed aside two grinding cogs.

    • Green Energy Glossary


      Absorber: The component of a solar thermal collector that absorbs solar radiation and converts it to heat, or, as in a solar photovoltaic device, the material that readily absorbs photons to generate charge (free electrons or holes).

      Absorption: The passing of a substance or force into the body of another substance.

      Absorption Coefficient: In reference to a solar energy conversion devices, the degree to which a substance will absorb solar energy.

      Adiabatic: Without loss or gain of heat to a system.

      Aerobic Bacteria: Microorganisms that require free oxygen, or air, to live, and contribute to the decomposition of organic material in soil or composting systems.

      Air: The mixture of gases that surrounds the Earth and forms its atmosphere, composed of, by volume, 21 percent oxygen, 78 percent nitrogen, and 1 percent other elements.

      Air Pollution: The presence of contaminants in the air in concentrations that prevent the normal dispersive ability of the air, and interfere with biological processes and human economics.

      Air Quality Standards: The prescribed level of pollutants allowed in outside or indoor air as established by legislation.

      Albedo: The ratio of light reflected by a surface to the light falling on it.

      Alternative Fuels: A popular term for nonconventional transportation fuels derived from natural gas or biomass materials.

      Ambient Air: The air external to a building or device.

      Anaerobic Bacteria: Microorganisms that live in oxygen-deprived environments.

      Anaerobic Digestion: The process by which organic matter is decomposed by anaerobic bacteria.

      Anemometer: An instrument for measuring the force or velocity of wind; a wind gauge.

      Annual Load Fraction: The fraction of annual energy demand supplied by a solar system.

      Annual Solar Savings: The annual solar savings of a solar building is the energy savings attributable to a solar feature relative to the energy requirements of a non-solar building.

      Appliance: A device for converting one form of energy or fuel into useful energy or work.

      Appliance Standards: Standards established by the U.S. Congress for energy-consuming appliances in the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) of 1987.

      Argon: A colorless, odorless inert gas sometimes used in the spaces between the panes in energy-efficient windows.

      Available Heat: The amount of heat energy that may be converted into useful energy from a fuel.


      Balance-of-System: In a renewable energy system, refers to all components other than the mechanism used to harvest the resource (such as photovoltaic panels or a wind turbine).

      Batch Heater: This simple passive solar hot water system consists of one or more storage tanks placed in an insulated box that has a glazed side facing the sun.

      Bioconversion: The conversion of one form of energy into another by the action of plants or microorganisms, such as the conversion of biomass to ethanol, methanol, or methane.

      Biogas: A combustible gas created by anaerobic decomposition of organic material, composed primarily of methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.

      Biomass: Any organic matter that is available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops and agricultural wastes and residues, wood and wood wastes and residues, animal wastes, municipal wastes, and aquatic plants.

      Blackbody: An ideal substance that absorbs all radiation falling on it, reflecting nothing.

      Bottoming-Cycle: A means of increasing the thermal efficiency of a steam electric–generating system by converting some waste heat from the condenser into electricity.

      Bread Box System: This simple passive solar hot water system consists of one or more storage tanks placed in an insulated box that has a glazed side facing the sun.


      Carbon Monoxide: A colorless, odorless, but poisonous combustible gas with the formula CO.

      Caulking: A material used to seal areas of potential air leakage into or out of a building.

      Cellulose: The fundamental constituent of all vegetative tissue; the most abundant material in the world.

      Central Receiver Solar Power Plants: Also known as power towers, these use fields of two-axis tracking mirrors known as heliostats. Each heliostat is individually positioned by a computer control system to reflect the sun's rays to a tower-mounted thermal receiver. The effect of many heliostats reflecting to a common point creates the combined energy of thousands of suns, which produces high-temperature thermal energy.

      Clean Power Generator: A company or other organizational unit that produces electricity from sources that are thought to be environmentally cleaner than traditional sources. Clean or green power is usually defined as power from renewable energy such as wind, solar, and biomass energy.

      Climate Change: A term used to describe short and long-term affects on Earth's climate as a result of human activities such as fossil fuel combustion and vegetation clearing and burning.

      Cogeneration: The generation of electricity or shaft power by an energy conversion system, and the concurrent use of rejected thermal energy from the conversion system as an auxiliary energy source.

      Collector Tilt: The angle that a solar collector is positioned from horizontal.

      Combustion: The process of burning; the oxidation of a material by applying heat, which unites oxygen with a material or fuel.

      Composting: The process of degrading organic material (biomass) by microorganisms in aerobic conditions.

      Concentrating (Solar) Collector: A solar collector that uses reflective surfaces to concentrate sunlight onto a small area, where it is absorbed and converted to heat or, in the case of solar photovoltaic (PV) devices, into electricity.

      Conventional Fuel: The fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas.

      Coproducts: The potentially useful byproducts of the ethanol fermentation process.

      Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cell: A type of photovoltaic cell made from a single crystal or a polycrystalline slice of silicon. Crystalline silicon cells can be joined together to form a module (or panel).

      Cube Law: In reference to wind energy, for any given instant, the power available in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity; when wind speed doubles, the power availability increases eight times.


      Dam: A structure for impeding and controlling the flow of water in a water course, which increases the water elevation to create the hydraulic head. The reservoir creates, in effect, stored energy.

      Decomposition: The process of breaking down organic material; reduction of the net energy level and change in physical and chemical composition of organic material.

      Dimmer: A light control device that allows light levels to be manually adjusted. A dimmer can save energy by reducing the amount of power delivered to the light.

      Direct Gain: The process by which sunlight directly enters a building through the windows and is absorbed and stored in massive floors or walls.

      Drag: Resistance caused by friction in the direction opposite to that of movement of components such as wind turbine blades.


      Economizer: A heat exchanger for recovering heat from flue gases for heating water or air.

      Effective Capacity: The maximum load that a device is capable of carrying.

      Efficiency (Appliance) Ratings: A measure of the efficiency of an appliance's energy efficiency.

      Electrical Charge: A condition that results from an imbalance between the number of protons and the number of electrons in a substance.

      Electric System: The physically connected generation, transmission, and distribution facilities and components operated as a unit.

      Electromagnetic Energy: Energy generated from an electromagnetic field produced by an electric current flowing through a superconducting wire kept at a specific low temperature.

      Emissions: A substances or pollutants emitted as a result of a process.

      Emissivity: The ratio of the radiant energy (heat) leaving (being emitted by) a surface to that of a black body at the same temperature and with the same area; expressed as a number between zero and one.

      Energy: The capability of doing work; different forms of energy can be converted to other forms, but the total amount of energy remains the same.

      Energy Crops: Crops grown specifically for their fuel value.

      Entropy: A measure of the unavailable or unusable energy in a system; energy that cannot be converted to another form.

      Environment: All the natural and living things in the world. The earth, air, weather, plants, and animals all make up the environment.

      Exothermic: A reaction or process that produces heat; a combustion reaction.


      Fermentation: The decomposition of organic material to alcohol, methane, and other substances by organisms such as yeast or bacteria, usually in the absence of oxygen.

      First Law of Thermodynamics: States that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form to another.

      Fossil Fuels: Fuels formed in the ground from the remains of dead plants and animals. It takes millions of years to form fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels.

      Fuel: Any material that can be burned to make energy.


      Geothermal Energy: Any and all energy produced by the internal heat of the Earth.

      Global Warming: The increase in average global temperatures due to the greenhouse effect.

      Green Certificates: Green certificates represent the environmental attributes of power produced from renewable resources.

      Greenhouse Effect: The heating effect due to the trapping of long wave (length) radiation by greenhouse gases produced from natural and human sources.

      Greenhouse Gases: Gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, tropospheric ozone, methane, and low level ozone that are transparent to solar radiation, but opaque to long wave radiation, and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

      Green Power: A popular term for energy produced from clean, renewable energy resources.

      Grid: A common term referring to an electricity transmission and distribution system.


      Heat: A form of thermal energy resulting from combustion, chemical reaction, friction, or movement of electricity.

      Heat-Absorbing Window Glass: A type of window glass that contains special tints that cause the window to absorb as much as 45 percent of incoming solar energy, to reduce heat gain in an interior space.

      Heliochemical Process: The utilization of solar energy through photosynthesis.

      Heliothermal: Any process that uses solar radiation to produce useful heat.

      Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS): A nationally recognized energy rating program that gives builders, mortgage lenders, secondary lending markets, homeowners, sellers, and buyers a precise evaluation of energy losing deficiencies in homes.

      Hybrid System: A renewable energy system that includes two different types of technologies that produce the same type of energy.

      Hydroelectric Power Plant: A power plant that produces electricity by the force of water falling through a hydro turbine that spins a generator.


      Incident Solar Radiation: The amount of solar radiation striking a surface per unit of time and area.

      Insolated Solar Gain System: A type of passive solar heating system where heat is collected in one area for use in another.

      Insulation: Materials that prevent or slow down the movement of heat.

      Integrated Heating Systems: A type of heating appliance that performs more than one function, for example space and water heating.

      Inverter: A device that converts direct current electricity (from, for example, a solar photovoltaic module or array) to alternating current for use directly to operate appliances or to supply power to an electricity grid.


      Kinetic Energy: Energy available as a result of motion that varies directly in proportion to an object's mass and the square of its velocity.


      Lift: The force that pulls a wind turbine blade, as opposed to drag.

      Load: The power required to run a defined circuit or system, such as a refrigerator, building, or an entire electricity distribution system.


      Megawatt (MW): One thousand kilowatts, or one million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.

      Methane: The main constituent of “natural gas” that is formed naturally by methanogenic anaerobic bacteria, or can be manufactured, and is used as a fuel and for manufacturing chemicals.

      Module: The smallest self-contained, environmentally protected structure housing interconnected photovoltaic cells and providing a single dc electrical output; also called a panel.


      Natural Gas: A hydrocarbon gas obtained from underground sources, often in association with petroleum and coal deposits.

      Net Energy Production (or Balance): The amount of useful energy produced by a system less the amount of energy required to produce the fuel.

      Nonrenewable Fuels: Fuels that cannot be easily made or renewed, such as oil, natural gas, and coal.

      Nuclear Energy: Energy that comes from splitting atoms of radioactive materials, such as uranium, and producing radioactive wastes.


      Ocean Energy Systems: Energy conversion technologies that harness the energy in tides, waves, and thermal gradients in the oceans.

      Oil (Fuel): A product of crude oil that is used for space heating, gasoline engines, and electrical generation.


      Panel (Solar): A term generally applied to individual solar collectors, and typically to solar photovoltaic collectors or modules.

      Panemone: A drag-type wind machine that can react to wind from any direction.

      Passive Solar (Building) Design: A building design that uses structural elements of a building to heat and cool a building, without the use of mechanical equipment.

      Penstock: A component of a hydropower plant; a pipe that delivers water to the turbine.

      Phantom Load: Any appliance that consumes power even when it is turned off.

      Phase Change: The process of changing from one physical state (solid, liquid, or gas) to another, with a necessary or coincidental input or release of energy.

      Photovoltaic (Solar) Cell: Treated semiconductor material that converts solar irradiance to electricity. When grouped, they are called solar arrays, modules, or panels.

      Pitch Control: A method of controlling a wind turbine's speed by varying the orientation, or pitch of the blades, altering its aerodynamics and efficiency.

      Power: Energy that is capable or available for doing work; the time rate at which work is performed.

      Power (Solar) Tower: A term used to describe solar thermal, central receiver power systems, where an array of reflectors focus sunlight onto a central receiver and absorber mounted on a tower.

      Process Heat: Thermal energy that is used in agricultural and industrial operations.

      Propeller (Hydro) Turbine: A turbine that has a runner with attached blades similar to a propeller used to drive a ship. As water passes over the curved propeller blades, it causes rotation of the shaft.

      Pyrolysis: The transformation of a compound or material into one or more substances by heat alone (without oxidation). Often called destructive distillation.


      Radiant Energy: Energy that transmits away from its source in all directions.

      Radiation: The transfer of heat through matter or space by means of electromagnetic waves.

      Recycling: The process of converting materials that are no longer useful as designed or intended into a new product.

      Refraction: The change in direction of a ray of light when it passes through one media to another with differing optical densities.

      Renewable Energy: Energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes cannot be depleted. Types of renewable energy resources include moving water (hydro, tidal, and wave power), thermal gradients in ocean water, biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, and wind energy. Municipal solid waste (garbage) is also considered a renewable energy resource.

      Resistance: The inherent characteristic of a material to inhibit the transfer of energy.

      Rotor: An electric generator consists of an armature and a field structure. In wind energy it is the blades and rotating components.

      Run-of-River Hydropower: A type of hydroelectric facility that uses the river flow with very little alteration and little or no impoundment of the water.


      Semiconductor: Any material that has a limited capacity for conducting an electric current.

      Silicon: A chemical element, of atomic number 14, that is semi-metallic, and an excellent semiconductor material used in solar photovoltaic devices; commonly found in sand.

      Single-Crystal Material: In reference to solar photovoltaic devices, a material that is composed of a single crystal or a few large crystals.

      Skylight: A window located on the roof of a structure to provide interior building spaces with natural daylight, warmth, and ventilation.

      Smart Window: A term used to describe a technologically advanced window system containing glazing that can change or switch its optical qualities when a low voltage electrical signal is applied to it, or in response to changes in heat or light.

      Solar Collector: A device used to collect, absorb, and transfer solar energy to a working fluid.

      Solar Cooling: The use of solar thermal energy or solar electricity to power a cooling appliance.

      Solar Energy: Electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun (solar radiation).

      Solar Fraction: The percentage of a building's seasonal energy requirements that can be met by solar energy devices or systems.

      Solar Irradiation: The amount of solar radiation, both direct and diffuse, received at any location.

      Solar Mass: A term used for materials used to absorb and store solar energy.

      Solar Spectrum: The total distribution of electromagnetic radiation emanating from the sun.

      Stall: In reference to a wind turbine, a condition when the rotor stops turning.

      Steam Turbine: A windmill that is powered by steam, usually to produce electricity.

      Sunspace: A room that faces south (in the northern hemisphere), or a small structure attached to the south side of a house.

      Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES): SMES technology uses the superconducting characteristics of low-temperature materials to produce intense magnetic fields to store energy.

      System Mix: The proportion of electricity distributed by a power provider that is generated from available sources such as coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower, wind, or geothermal.


      Temperature Coefficient (of a Solar Photovoltaic Cell): The amount that the voltage, current, and/or power output of a solar cell changes due to a change in the cell temperature.

      Thermal Capacitance: The ability of a material to absorb and store heat for later use.

      Thermal Energy: The energy developed through the use of heat energy.

      Thermal Mass: Materials that store heat.

      Thermal Storage Walls: A south-facing wall that is glazed on the outside. Solar heat strikes the glazing and is absorbed into the wall, which conducts the heat into the room over time.

      Thermodynamic Cycle: An idealized process in which a working fluid successively changes its state (from a liquid to a gas and back to a liquid) for the purpose of producing useful work or energy, or transferring energy.

      Thermodynamics: The study of the transformation of energy from one form to another, and its practical application.

      Thermosiphon: The natural, convective movement of air or water due to differences in temperature.

      Tidal Power: The power available from the rise and fall of ocean tides.

      Total Heat: The sum of the sensible and latent heat in a substance or fluid above a base point, usually 32 degrees F.

      Total Incident Radiation: The total radiation incident on a specific surface area over a time interval.

      Tracking Solar Array: A solar energy array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the cell's surface.

      Transmission: The process of sending or moving electricity from one point to another.

      Turbine: A device for converting the flow of a fluid (air, steam, water, or hot gases) into mechanical motion.


      Unglazed Solar Collector: A solar thermal collector that has an absorber without a glazed covering, like those used to heat swimming pools.

      Useful Heat: Heat stored above room temperature (in a solar heating system).


      Volt (V): A unit of electrical force equal to that amount of electromotive force that will cause a steady current of one ampere to flow through a resistance of one ohm.

      Voltage: The amount of electromotive force, measured in volts, that exists between two points.


      Water Turbine: A turbine that uses water pressure to rotate its blades, usually for generating electricity.

      Water Wheel: A wheel that is designed to use the weight and/or force of moving water to turn it, primarily to operate machinery or grind grain.

      Wave Power: The concept of capturing and converting the energy available in the motion of ocean waves to energy.

      Weatherization: Caulking and weather stripping (sealing gaps around windows and doors) to reduce air infiltration and exfiltration into/out of a building.

      Wind Energy: Energy available from the movement of the wind across a landscape caused by the heating of the atmosphere, earth, and oceans by the sun.

      Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) or Device: An apparatus for converting the energy available in the wind to mechanical energy that can be used to power machinery.

      Wind Generator: A WECS designed to produce electricity.

      Windmill: A WECS that is used to grind grain and typically has a high-solidity rotor; commonly used to refer to all types of WECS.

      Wind Power Plant: A group of wind turbines interconnected to a common power provider system.

      Wind Turbine: A term used for a wind energy conversion device that produces electricity; typically having one, two, or three blades.

      Wind Velocity: The wind speed and direction in an undisturbed flow.

      Working Fluid: A fluid used to absorb and transfer heat energy.

      Y Yaw: The rotation of a horizontal axis wind turbine around its tower or vertical axis.

      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (

      Green Energy Resource Guide


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      Marion, William and Stephen Wilcox. Solar Radiation Data Manual for Flat-Plate and Concentrating Collectors. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1995.

      McCracken, Garry and Peter Stott. Fusion: The Energy of the Universe. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2005.

      McKie, Robin. Energy. New York: Hampstead Press, 1989.

      Miami International Conference on Alternative Energy Sources. Solar Collectors Storage. Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor Sciences, 1982.

      Miller, Alan S. Growing Power: Bioenergy for Development and Industry. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 1986.

      National Conference on Renewable Natural Resources. Working Group Background Papers. Washington, D.C.: American Forestry Association, 1980.

      National Technical Information Service. Stand-Alone Photovoltaic Systems; A Handbook of Recommended Design Practices. Springfield, VA: Sandia National Laboratories, National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1995.

      Niele, Fank. Energy: The Engine of Evolution. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2005.

      Oguti, Takasi. Sun-Earth Energy Transfer. Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, 1994.

      Rooney, Anne. Solar Power. Pleasantville, NY: Gareth Stevens Publications, 2008.

      Silveira, Semida. Bioenergy–Realizing the Potential. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2005.

      Solar Design Associates. Photovoltaics in the Built Environment. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1997.

      Sorensen, B. Renewable Energy. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2004.

      Sorensen, B. Renewable Energy Conversion, Transmission and Storage. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2008.

      Sorensen, B. Renewable Energy Focus Handbook. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2007.

      Sperling, Daniel and James Cannon. The Hydrogen Energy Transition: Cutting Carbon From Transportation. The Netherlands, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2004.

      Suppes, Galen and Truman Storvick. Sustainable Nuclear Power. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2006.

      Sweet, William. Kicking the Carbon Habit. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

      Thomas, Isabel. The Pros and Cons of Solar Power. New York: Rosen Central, 2008.

      Union of Concerned Scientists. America's Energy Choices: Investing in a Strong Economy and Clean Environment. Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists, 1991.

      U.S. Department of Energy. A Place in the Sun; Solar Buildings. Merrifield, VA: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse, 1995.

      Watson, Robert K. Looking for Oil in All the Wrong Places: Facts About Oil, Natural Gas and Efficiency Resources. Washington, D.C.: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1991.

      Williams, J. Richard. Solar Energy: Technology and Applications. Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor Science Publishers, 1974.

      Williams, L. O. An End to Global Warming. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2002.


      Alternatives (Alternatives Inc.)

      American Naturalist (Thomson Corporation)

      Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics (Annual Reviews)

      BioScience (American Institute and Biological Sciences)

      Energy (Elsevier)

      Energy and Buildings (Elsevier)

      Energy and Environment (Multi-Science Publishing)

      Energy Conversion and Management (Elsevier)

      Energy Policy (Elsevier)

      Environmental Management (Academic Press)

      EPA Journal (Environmental Protection Agency)

      Fuel (Elsevier)

      Geothermics (Elsevier)

      Global Environmental Change (Royal Society of Chemistry)

      International Journal of Energy Research (John Wiley & Sons)

      International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control (Elsevier)

      International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (Elsevier)

      International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology (Taylor & Francis)

      Journal of Environmental Management (Academic Press) Journal of Environment and Development (SAGE Publications)

      Natural Resources Forum (Blackwell Publishing) Natural Resources Journal (University of New Mexico)

      Refocus (Elsevier)

      Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (Elsevier)

      Renewable Energy (Elsevier)

      Renewable Energy Focus (Elsevier)

      Renewable Energy World (Earthscan Publications)

      Solar Energy (Elsevier)

      Whole Earth Review (Point Foundation)


      Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth

      Alternative Energy Institute, Inc.

      Alternative Technology Association

      American Society of Mechanical Engineers

      American Solar Energy Society

      American Wind Energy Association

      Building Green, LLC

      California Energy Commission Home Page


      Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

      Environmental Literacy Council—Energy

      Hydrogen Energy Center

      International Green Energy Council

      International Solar Energy Society

      National Energy Education Development Project

      National Renewable Energy Laboratory

      Renewable Energy Policy Project

      Solar Energy International

      U.S. Department of Energy

      U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

      World watch Institute

      Green Energy Appendix


      Biz/ed is a prize-winning online service that is an excellent source of information on the business and economic aspects of many topics relevant to green energy, including packaging and pollution, road congestion, fair trade, and alternative energy production. The site's target market is university and college students and professors but it will also be useful to journalists, policy makers, and the general public. The site includes a glossary, acronym finder, diagram bank, and search interface, while individual topics include an overview of the subject including current European Union (EU) legislation, and links to further information both within the website and externally. It also includes a regularly updated section of information about topics in the news and numerous data sets, which can be freely downloaded, as well as a guide to locating other data on the web. Six “virtual worlds,” including a developing country, a factory, and a farm can be accessed through the website: these “worlds” integrate information about economic theory with current information and data that allow users to place information about topics (e.g., the externalities of pollution) in context.

      The Carbon Trust

      The Carbon Trust is an organization located in the United Kingdom whose purpose is to cut current and future carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies. This website includes information about climate change and carbon reduction, including basic discussions of the topic, news items, strategies to reduce carbon, case studies, videos, teaching resources, information about research grants and financing available, and links to relevant reports, press releases, and speeches. It also includes information about the Carbon Reduction Label, which shows a product's carbon footprint, i.e., the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during its life cycle (manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal), and a list of brands and retailers using the Carbon Reduction Label. It also includes two interactive calculators to calculate carbon footprints (one for individuals and one for businesses creating a product or service) and offers advice (with links to relevant information sources) on reducing the carbon footprint.

      The Chicago Climate Exchange

      This is the website of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the only cap and trade system in North America that deals in all six greenhouse gases. The exchange facilitates the trading of Carbon Financial Instrument (CFI) contracts, each of which represents the equivalent of 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Members of the exchange, which includes companies such as Ford, DuPont, Rolls-Royce, and Eastman Kodak as well as municipalities including King County, Washington, the State of Illinois, and Boulder, Colorado, and universities including Michigan State and Tufts, enter into a voluntary but legally binding commitment to meet emissions targets (calculated as a reduction from their baseline emissions). Those below the targets can sell or bank their allowances while those above can stay in compliance by purchasing allowances or participating in offset projects. The website contains background information about climate exchanges in general and the CCX in particular, news about the exchange, a calendar of events, and links to information about other exchanges including the European Climate Exchange and the Montreal Climate Exchange.

      The European Environment Agency

      The European Environment Agency (EEA) is an agency appointed by the European Union (EU) to provide independent information on the environment to those involved in creating and implementing policy as well as to the general public in order to facilitate the exchange of information and promote sound decision making. Information on the EEA's website is organized into five categories: air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, land use, and water. Within each section the site provides an overview of the situation in the EU (for instance, whether a type of pollution has increased or declined in recent years), general information about the topic, information about relevant EEA activities, policy information, news articles, publications and multimedia, maps and graphs, data sets, a calendar of upcoming events, and external links to other organizations dealing with the topic. The site also includes a glossary of terms relevant to the environment with translations of the term into the other EU languages, a link to other networks concerned with the European environment, and press releases.

      The Green Power Network

      This website, created and maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy, provides news and information on green power (energy) products, providers, consumer protection issues and policy discussion. Most of the website is devoted to green power generation within the United States, although there is also a section devoted to international issues with links to news articles and programs. The website includes links to published reports on green power (from governmental, academic and private sources), an archive of news stories about green power and listings of green energy products available in each state as well as greenhouse gas offsets, which are available nationally with a state-by-state listing of policies. There is also a section for renewable energy RFPs (requests for proposals), which lists grants and business opportunities for sustainable energy projects and research.

      The U.S. Green Building Council

      The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that promotes environmentally sustainable building practices and developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, which certifies buildings as “green” if they meet certain standards concerning conservation, waste reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and promotion of the occupant's health and safety. The website includes basic information about the impact of the built environment on the natural environment and the benefits of green building as well as specific information about the LEED program, education and training, educational resources and news about green building. In addition, it includes information about USGBC membership, chapters, and committees.

      Vehicle Technologies Program

      This website, created and maintained by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy, disseminates information about transportation-related programs and technologies to reduce petroleum use and reduce environmental impact. Information is organized into 10 categories: hybrid and vehicle systems, energy storage (including batteries), power electronics & electrical machines, advanced combustion engines, fuels & lubricants, materials technologies, analysis & tools (including data, downloadable software tools and links to reports from several federal agencies), EPAct transportation regulatory activities, clean cities, and research partnerships. The emphasis is on automobile and truck technologies (i.e., not rail or other forms of mass transit) and includes basic information and downloadable fact sheets, news items, information about federal and state incentives and laws relating to alternative fuels, as well as on related topics such as fuel efficiency. For potential purchasers of new cars there is information about fuel efficiency, air pollution ratings, and safety data, and an interface to search for alternative fueling stations within the United States.

      SarahBoslaughWashington University in St. Louis
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