Browsing the Internet for energy information can be overwhelming. A simple search can give you 10,000 results. With so many Web sites to choose from, how do you know which you can trust?
We have answers.
Your local co-op’s Web site is a great starting point.
Bill Prather, president and CEO of Farmers Rural Electric Co-op based in Glasgow, says, “Our motivation is to help our members. We want to provide reliable and sound information. We try to give people the facts so they can make better decisions.”
You can find your own local co-op’s Web site quickly by clicking on “Member Co-ops” at the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives Web site at www.kaec.org.
This month we’ve put together three gift baskets filled with our favorite energy Web sites. At these spots you’ll find practical suggestions and reliable information without sales pitches or extravagant claims.
Basket one: for kids and other curious folks
The focus is on fun at www.kidsenergyzone.com. Developed for elementary school age kids by Touchstone Energy, a part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, this Web site is based on scientific facts and the latest careful research, with a big helping of entertainment. Two cartoon characters, CFL Charlie and Switchy, guide youngsters through a variety of interactive games and short lessons.
Tim Gossett, vice president of member services and marketing at Meade County Rural Electric Co-op based in Brandenburg, says, “We added a direct link from our co-op’s Web site to the Kids Energy Zone about four years ago because it is an excellent resource for young students to learn about electricity, safety, and using energy wisely.”
Touchstone Energy’s Director of Marketing and Advertising Kristine Jackson says, “About 40 percent of local co-ops nationwide already have a direct link to the Kids Energy Zone Web site, and the number is growing. They know that all of the lesson plans are based on core concepts and meet national standards.” They’re fun, too. Kids especially enjoy playing “Lights Out,” an energy-saving game.
Students at all grade levels will find useful information about all forms of energy at the Energy Kids Web site at www.eia.gov/kids. Produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this site includes a very large section devoted to electricity, and includes ideas for science fair experiments and projects.
An unusual and entertaining feature at the Energy Kids Web site involves the adventures of Energy Ant, a mascot. You can read his on-the-scene travel notes and see photos as he visits a hydroelectric dam, a nuclear power plant, and many other energy-related sites. In the “For Teachers” as well as the “Games & Activities” sections, select the “Field Trips” option, then pick a destination to explore.
Basket two: for energy savers and penny pinchers
Jamie Sears Rawlings, communications and media relations coordinator at West Kentucky Rural Electric Co-op based in Mayfield, says, “The number-one question I hear from our co-op members is, ‘How do I save money?’ Then the next thing folks ask is, ‘How do I start?'”
Rawlings says, “I always tell our members that to save energy you don’t have to do a lot of big changes. There are just as many small changes that can add up to big savings. The best place to find those ideas is at www.TogetherWeSave.com. I typically send our members there because I feel confident in the information that they’ll find. It is all co-op-based and from reliable sources.”
The easy-to-use features and information at the Together We Save Web site are customized to your area. A pop-up box asks you to enter your zip code and select your co-op’s name. Then, with the click of a mouse, you can test energy-saving ideas in a virtual house. Interactive examples let you raise and lower the window blinds, turn off lights, and try a dozen other actions to see the impact on a year’s worth of energy bills. The dollar amounts in the answers are based on the energy prices right in your area. You can also watch short videos about how people are making simple changes to use energy more carefully.
Another good place to find quick tips around the theme “Saving Energy Saves You Money” is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Web site at www.energysavers.gov. The ideas at this site are based on everyday situations. You can explore how landscaping affects your energy use or what to look for when choosing replacement windows. You can also find energy-saving design ideas if you’ve been making sketches to remodel or build your dream home.
If you’re thinking of replacing an old appliance this year, you can find facts and figures about the most energy-efficient ones at www.energystar.gov. This Web site also includes details about any rebates offered on qualifying purchases.
Basket three: for techies and number crunchers
Do you like studying charts and maps and graphs? Want to know which states have the most sunshine for solar power? Ever wondered how much electricity Americans use in a year? Need statistics about natural gas power plant emissions?
If you enjoy exploring technology, and getting deep into the hows and whys of energy production and energy use, these two Web sites will start you on the path to fascinating details. Visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Web site at www.nrel.gov or the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s main Web site at www.eia.gov.
Energy journalist NANCY GRANT is a member of the Cooperative Communicators Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.