Alternative Energy Terms - dummies

By Rik DeGunther

Part of Alternative Energy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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