SITE VISIT: All About Renewable Energy

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Science  30 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5428, pp. 635
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5428.635a

This week, NetWatch highlights Web sites that supplement this special issue on energy, covering topics that range from alternative fuels to wind farms.

Do a Web search on terms like “solar energy research” or “alternative fuels,” and your hits are bound to include a Web page at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This Department of Energy (DOE) lab in Golden, Colorado, dominates renewables research in the United States, and its site brims with information, whether you're a student curious about geothermal energy or a researcher looking for references on photovoltaics.

NREL's chunk of cyberspace can be confusing, as one gets shunted among the smaller sites it contains or diverted to a megasite that NREL operates for DOE, called the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network. To get your bearings, click on the home page's Research and Technology link, which leads to specific topics. For instance, the photovoltaics page offers a trove of reports and background on research areas such as polycrystalline thin films. The Wind Center's site has a U.S. atlas showing how much wind each state gets (altogether, wind could provide 1.5 times the nation's electricity needs), and references—even a database on “avian-wind turbine interactions.” The NREL home page's Data and Documents link also leads to databases, such as a U.S. atlas of 30 years of solar radiation measurements that can help you figure out whether it makes sense to put up solar panels on your roof. In the biomass section, there's a bibliography and maps showing U.S. forestry stocks. This fall the lab plans to add a “much more robust” background section called Clean Energy Basics, says Joe Chervenak, who manages the site.

Yet another useful resource is NREL's Online Photo Library, an archive of over 7000 photos showcasing renewable projects around the world—from a wind farm in Altamont Pass, California, to a sari-clad woman using a solar-powered water pump in India.

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