When determining whether to install solar panels, researching alternative energy sources, or just looking for information about your options, the number of websites with information can seem overwhelming. Some sites seem to have more of an agenda than others, and some are looking for viewers to take certain action and so their information may not be completely unbiased. The following are some tips to help you determine what makes a green site a quality top source of information.
Look for sites from established institutions
Sites about alternative energy sources, to claim to be an authority on the subject, should be an established institution. One such examples of an authority in the green energy field would be American Solar Energy Society (ases.org). ASES is a nonprofit organization established in 1954 and is the US division of the International Solar Energy Society. Their goal is to inform the public and speed the transition to a sustainable energy society. There are chapters in most states and specific divisions that focus on different areas of solar energy. They are not trying to sell anything on their website, which makes them a good source of unbiased information. Another unbiased authority is The Solar Electric Light Fund. SELF is a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that seeks to “design and implement solar energy solutions to assist those living in energy poverty with their economic, educational, health care, and agricultural development.” They were founded in 1990 and travel the globe to install solar power operations in developing countries. Established institutions such as ASES and SELF are more likely to have true and factual information because they are very much in the public eye and have a responsibility to be accurate, unlike smaller third party websites where no one is checking their information.
Look for source siting
Quality websites will always site where and how they got their information. When listing statistics and other data, there should be a reference to a reputable source of information or study where the numbers were taken from. For instance, the creators of AltEnergy.org are not professionals or scientists, but hobbyist. They are not an established institution, but they have numerous links and sources to back up their information. They claim they are passionate about alternative forms of energy and so worked together to find all the research they could on the subject and compile it into one comprehensive source of information. It is not intended for professional use, but to inform the public about the developments in the field of alternative energy sources in North America, Europe, and Australia. They do not claim to be any source of authority, but present information to the best of their knowledge. Like ASES, since they are not for profit, this site is a great source of unbiased information without an agenda.
Look for sites with expertise
Sites from companies within the solar and alternative energy field are going to have better and more accurate information than just some homeowner trying to install solar panels on his roof and blogging about it. Sites like SolarEnergy.com, who help customers find solar installers in their area, provide factual information for those looking into the process. SolarEnergy.com claims to be “the authority on all things solar.” In addition to providing information, they offer a service to find quotes for customers looking to install solar panels. With the slight agenda of encouraging site viewers to take action and look for solar installers, it is still a solid source of factual information about solar installations, and a great site to visit if it is something you are seriously considering.
Look for current information.
Currency is important, especially in fields like alternative energy, where new discoveries and developments are made every day. Look for sites that have been updated recently or have blogs that are updated regularly. This alerts viewers that someone is regularly monitoring and updating the site with current information. One such site that's main objective is to inform viewers about current news and updates relating to the green energy field is RenewableEnergyWorld.com. It was created by a group of professionals in the renewable energy field and claim to be the “single most recognized and trusted source for Renewable Energy News and Information on the Internet.” Their mission is to inform the public about worldwide renewable energy tops and give comprehensive, correct information about all things related to renewable energy. Most sites, even if not sites geared toward current news, should have a “last updated” date somewhere on their page.
Judge the site's appearance
When sites look like they are done by amateurs, they probably are, and the information is most likely not very reliable. Sites that look well designed and professional mean that the creator paid a professional to design it for them, which means they are likely to be a legitimate and established source with a budget for a website. Spelling and grammar are also keys when looking for professionalism. Bad writing is a sign that, not only may the writer not know what they are talking about, but they did not spend much time researching or writing. Look for author information. Sites without information about the individual or company that created or manages it is a sign to steer clear. Sites whose authors are named are usually more reliable than those without. When an author is named, someone is holding themselves accountable for the information, and is responsible for the site's contents.