October 21st, 2009

Clean Tech Guide 101 – Renewable Energy Part 1: Top 20 Resources to Learn about the Technologies

CleanTech Guide -


So, you want to work in clean tech but don’t know where to start? I found myself in the same place 2 years ago. Welcome to the first part of the Clean Tech Guide 101, it will be perfect for you. I decided to create the guide after being asked similar questions from friends, recent graduates, fellow entrepreneurs about clean technology. I love to help people and noticed that my answers were typically similar, so I thought it would be useful to create a guide to refer people to.

The guide comes from my experience entering the clean technology industry and the steps I took from being simply interested to being knowledgeable enough to provide value to the industry.

Who is the guide for?

Recent graduates, career changers, or entrepreneurs who have little to no knowledge about clean technology but are looking for some direction to learn about the industry.

What’s the purpose?

The goal will be to provide you with basic resources that you can use to begin to learn about and get involved in the clean technology industry. I can only provide you with the resources that will help you, if you really want to get involved you’ll have to do most of the work, but I think this information will be a really helpful start.

The 4 Parts of the Clean Tech Guide:

Clean technology has a very broad definition, but the clean tech guide will focus on four areas:

  1. Renewable Energy
  2. Resource Efficiency
  3. Green Building
  4. Food

Outline of Each Section

  1. Understanding the principles and/or technology
  2. Reading materials
  3. Where to meet people
  4. How to find your niche

Section 1: Renewable Energy

Step 1: Understand the technology

Renewable Energy is defined as energy generated from resources that are naturally replenished.

The most important element to entering renewable energy is being able to understand and speak about the basics principles, technologies, and buzz words in the industry. So you will be able to read industry information, go to conferences, and talk with people intelligently. If you find yourself in a conversation about renewable energy, you’ll be better off if you know what REGGI, RECs, DG, and other random acronyms mean.

Renewable Energy is fundamentally divided into utility scale and distributed generation projects, known as DG. When you think of utility scale projects these are large plants, such as coal and nuclear. These type of plants are less common with renewable sources (with the exception of hydroelectric) due to transmission loss (the loss of energy needed to transmit the energy from point to point) but there are some applications of utility scale solar and wind projects. Distributed generation refers to smaller, more local power generation where the power is produced very close to where it will be consumed, i.e. a solar system on a house.

The main distributed generation renewable energy applications include:

Small Wind:


Small Hydro


  • Small Hydro is sometimes called micro hydro or pico hydro. Small hydro is the use of hydroelectric power for a community of residents or business users with capacity up to 10 megawatts.
  • Small Hyro: As always, Wikipedia has some great information!
  • Dorado Vista: One of the few places I’ve found to get information specifically on small hydro.

Solar Photovoltaic Power (PV)


  • Solar Photovoltaic Power (PV) is almost always referred to as “PV”. It uses the sun to excite electrons, excited electrons then create electricity. It’s a little more complicated but thats the general jist.
  • How Solar Cells Work: A great article by ‘How Stuff Works’. A must read description of how solar cells work written in plain english.
  • Solar Consumer’s Guide: A free guide published by the Department of Energy, a great document that discusses all of solar’s basics.
  • Solar Basics: Free information solar basics published from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Solar Electricity Basics Free Webinar: Great 45 minute free webinar on basics of solar photovoltaic energy. Very organized, spoken in common language.

Solar Thermal/Domestic Hot water


  • Solar thermal technology uses the sun to heat water. The hot water can be used for pool heating, heating domestic hot water, or providing heat for a residential or commercial building.
  • Solar Hot Water Basics: Some great resources provided by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
  • Solar Water Heaters: Resources U.S Department of Energy. Good introduction into the types of systems, collectors, and application. It also provides great addition resources.
  • Solar Water Heating Basics Free Webinar: Great 45 mintue free webinar on the basics of solar thermal technology. If you have a couple minutes, check this out.

Geothermal Heat Pumps


  • Geothermal heat pumps are the cheapest heating and cooling systems to operate. They use the more constant temperature of the ground as a heating or cooling source instead of using outside air temperatures. The larger temperature difference allows geothermal systems to reach 300% to 600% efficiency. A heat pump is a mechanical device that is used to move heat, a heat pump is used in a refrigerator.
  • Geothermal Basics: Published from the US Department of Energy
  • Geothermal Reference Guide: Packed with information on goethermal heat pumps, tehcnology, installation, costs, manufacture details, and other resources.
  • Geothermal Survival Kit: Published by HeatSpring Learning Institute. It’s a great reference that goes over many geothermal basics, system types, costs, design considerations.


Did you find the resources helpful?

What other questions do you have about renewable energy technologies that weren’t answered? Please let me know and I’m sure I can find something to help you.

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.