If you want to get involved in the alternative energy conversation (and understand what you read and hear), learning these basic terms about energy is a good place to start:

  • Alternative energy: Energy sources that don’t include fossil fuels or carbon-combustible products such as gasoline, coal, natural gas, and so on

  • BTU (British Thermal Unit): The basic unit of energy in the English system

  • Energy: The total amount of effort, or work, it takes to accomplish a certain task

  • Energy efficiency: The ratio of the useful work obtained from a process to the raw power taken to achieve that process

  • First law of thermodynamics: A key physics principle stating that energy can neither be created nor destroyed (that is, energy is never used up; it simply changes forms)

  • Joule (J): The basic unit of energy in the international system

  • Power: The speed with which energy is being expended to achieve a task

  • Renewable energy: Forms of energy that constantly replenish themselves with little or no human effort

  • Second law of thermodynamics: The physics principle stating that the disorder of any closed system can only increase — that waste is unavoidable

  • Sustainable energy: Forms of energy that are not only renewable but also have the ability to keep Earth’s ecosystem up and running in perpetuity

  • Watt: Power is energy per time, and the standard unit of measurement is the watt. 1 Watt (W) = 1 joule/ second = 3.412 Btu/hr. 1 HP = 0.746 kW