Power Words

What does that word mean?

Most conservation materials are about taking action, or “walking the talk.” But sometimes you need to “talk the talk,” too! So if you’re stuck on a word, you can look it up here!

Child drawing at schoolSchool children

Click a letter of the alphabet to find a word…

ALTERNATING CURRENT (A.C.) is electric current in which the flow constantly reverses direction. The electric current delivered to the outlets in our homes alternates 60 times per second, or 60 hertz.
ALTERNATIVE FUEL is a fuel other than the one usually used.
ASH is a solid waste product that remains after coal is burned in the boiler of a power plant. This by-product is removed by emission control equipment. Some ash is stored in special ponds on site. Some ash is stored in landfills, which are returned to natural habitats. Other ash is recycled into products to make concrete or build roads.
ATOMS are tiny particles — only about 500-billionths of an inch in size — that make up everything in our world. Inside atoms are even tinier particles, the smallest of which are electrons. Materials where electrons are free to move, like metal, make good conductors for electricity. When electrons move, electric current is created.
BAGHOUSE is equipment that acts like a giant vacuum cleaner and removes particulate or ash from combustion gases at power plants that burn coal.
BANDING is putting identification bands on birds. When peregrine babies are about 20 days old, environmental scientists put numbered bands on both legs. This helps scientists to track the birds and follow their progress over the years.
BASELOAD PLANT is a power plant that runs day and night. Baseload plants are usually the largest and most efficient plants in the system.
BATTERY is a device that stores small amounts of electricity as chemical energy.
BIOCONVERSION is a process in which living or once-living matter, like plants or garbage, is used to produce energy.
BIOFUEL is a renewable fuel made from plant materials like crops or trees, or animal manure. Ethanol is a biofuel made from corn to power cars and trucks.
BIOMASS is plant material or farm waste used as a fuel or energy source.
BYPRODUCT is a product that you may or may not want, which comes along with the product you do want. For example, a light bulb gives off light and heat. You really want the light, but the heat is produced at the same time; the heat is the byproduct. Whenever we use energy we get byproducts.
CARBON DIOXIDE is a colorless, odorless gas emitted from burning fossil fuels.
CARBON FOOTPRINT is a way to measure how much carbon dioxide we put into the air through the things we do or use. For instance, driving a car burns gasoline, which puts carbon dioxide into the air. And because it takes energy to produce some products, using those products also puts carbon dioxide into the air. The more we do or use things that put more carbon dioxide into the air, the larger our carbon footprint.
CAULKING is material used to plug cracks and seams so air or water can’t leak in or out.
CHICKS are baby birds of any kind.
CIRCUIT is the path electricity takes. For example, the path from the power plant to your house is a circuit.
CIRCUIT BREAKER shuts off the flow of electricity or breaks its path if you are drawing too much electricity. The circuit breaker prevents the wires in your house from overheating and starting a fire. If your house doesn’t have a circuit breaker, it will have a fuse box to stop the electricity and prevent danger.
CLUTCH is a batch of eggs or chicks.
COAL is a mineral made of decayed plant material that was buried and compressed for hundreds of millions of years. One pound of coal can be used to produce enough electricity to light 10 100-watt incandescent light bulbs for an hour.
COAL MILL is where coal is crushed into a fine powder before being burned in the boiler.
COAL PLANTS are our country’s largest source of electricity today. The coal is shipped on trains, ground to a fine powder, and then burned to heat the water and make the steam that moves the turbine inside the generator.
COMBUSTIBLE is something that can burn.
COMBUSTION is the process of burning, a chemical reaction that produces heat and light. Something that is COMBUSTIBLE is something that will burn.
CONDENSER UNIT is part of the system that recycles the water used to generate electricity in a power plant. It contains pipes filled with cold water that absorb heat from the steam used to turn the turbine, which helps the steam condense back to water.
CONDUCTOR is a material in which electrons are free to move around and allow electricity to pass through it. Copper, aluminum and water are all excellent conductors.
CONSERVATION is the practice of using only what you really need now so that there will be enough for the future.
CONVECTION is a heating and cooling process that creates the movement of air that we know as wind. When heat makes molecules in the air move more quickly and spread out, that makes hot air rise. When the air cools the molecules slow down and become more dense, so the air sinks to replace the hot, rising air. That rising and sinking creates wind.
COOLING TOWERS are buildings outside the main power plant. They use outside air to help cool the water used in generating electricity.
CURRENT is a stream of moving electrons, which is electricity. It moves almost 186,000 miles per second!
DEMAND for electricity is the amount of electricity needed by people to heat or cool buildings, and run equipment, appliances and lights. Demand is usually highest in the summer when everybody runs their air conditioners.
DIRECT CURRENT (D.C.) is current that flows in only one direction.
DISTRIBUTION LINES are the wires that bring electricity into your neighborhood.
DOWN is the soft fuzz that bird babies have before they grow adult feathers. Down helps keep them warm, along with the warmth from their parents’ bodies. Adults have an undercoat of down and an overcoat of flight feathers.
EGG TOOTH is a special hook on the end of a baby bird’s bill that helps it break through the egg to hatch.
ELECTRICITY is a flow of electrons, usually generated at a power plant and sent through power lines to buildings.
ELECTRODE is a conductor through which electric current enters or leaves an electric device. Most electrodes are made of metal. A battery has two electrodes, one positively charged and one negatively charged. Electrodes collect the current and permit it to be drawn out of the battery.
ELECTROLYTE is a solution that is able to conduct electric current. Electrolytes contain charged particles, or ions, which allow a free flow of current from one terminal through a solution to the other terminal.
ELECTROLYZERS are machines that send electricity through water, which splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored in big tanks until it’s needed to run a combustion turbine and produce electricity.
ELECTRONS are tiny invisible particles inside the atoms that make up everything on earth. Electrons have a slight negative charge, and their movement is what we know as electricity.
EMBRYO is the developing baby inside an egg. The yolk (yellow part) of the egg supplies the baby with food.
EMISSIONS are gases and particles that are emitted or released into the air when burning fossil fuels. Power companies work to reduce emissions to protect the environment and help keep our air clean.
ENERGY is the ability to do work. Forms of energy include movement, light, heat, sound and electricity. There also are stored forms of energy, like mechanical energy or chemical energy, which can be converted into other forms. For example, pedaling your bike changes mechanical energy into movement.
ENVIRONMENT is everything around us, especially natural surroundings like plants, air, water, land and animals.
EYAS is another name for a baby falcon in the nest.
FISSION is a nuclear reaction in which the nuclei of atoms split apart to produce energy. This is the process that creates heat in a nuclear power plant.
FLAMMABLE is something that easily catches fire.
FLEDGLING is a young bird that has learned to fly.
FLUORESCENT means “glowing with light.” Fluorescent light bulbs are far more efficient and last far longer than standard incandescent light bulbs.
FOSSIL FUELS come from decayed plant and animal matter buried under layers of earth hundreds of millions of years ago. Their energy is released by burning. Coal, oil and natural gas are all fossil fuels. Together they account for three-fourths of the electricity generated in the United States today. Fossil fuels are nonrenewable.
FUEL is something that can be used to make light, heat or power.
FUSE is a small device designed to prevent fires by breaking the path of electricity. If you try to run too many electrical appliances at once, you may blow a fuse.
FUSION is a nuclear reaction in which the nuclei of atoms combine to produce energy. Nuclear fusion is what powers the sun, the stars and nuclear reactors.
A GEAR BOX is often part of a wind turbine. It uses gears inside to change the slow rotating speed of wind blades into fast rotating speed that can spin a generator to produce electricity.
GEKEK is an Ojibwa word for “falcon.”
GENERATOR is what makes the electricity at a power plant. The generator has a large coil of wire that spins inside big magnets. This creates a stream of moving electrons that we know as electricity.
GRID is a network that connects the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to the people and buildings who use it. Through the energy grid, utilities connect their transmission systems to neighboring systems run by other utilities. That allows power to flow freely from one region to another across the country.
HERTZ (Hz) is a unit used to measure frequency, or the number of waves or forward-backward cycles per second.
HYDROELECTRIC PLANTS use water to push the blades of the turbine inside the generator. Hydroelectric plants are always located at a waterfall or on a river with a dam.
HYDROPOWER is electricity created when falling water turns the turbine in a generator.
A HUB is the part of a wind turbine that is attached to the blades. It is bolted to the front of the nacelle, and it spins with the blades. The hub and the blades together is called the ROTOR.
ION is an atom that has lost or gained one or more electrons and has an electronic charge.
INCANDESCENT light bulbs waste 90% of their energy producing heat instead of light. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are far more energy efficient.
INCUBATE is to keep eggs warm so that their embryos can develop and hatch.
INSULATION is material used in ceilings and walls to prevent the loss of heat. It works like a blanket by trapping air.
KILOWATT (kW) is 1,000 watts. A watt is a measure of electricity use or production.
LIFT is what keeps birds and airplanes afloat, and turns the blades of a wind turbine. The wind splits apart when it hits the blade. Because the blade is curved, the wind passing on top moves faster and weighs less than the wind passing beneath. That creates upward pressure, or lift.
MEGAWATT (mW) is 1 million watts. A watt is a measure of electricity use or production.
METER is a device that keeps track of the electricity you use, so the power company knows how much to charge you for the power.
METHANE GAS is a gas produced by decaying garbage.
MIGRATE is to travel from one region to another on a regular basis. Most falcons migrate to warmer climates in winter and return in the spring.
MILL ROLLS are like big grinding stones used to crush coal inside the coal mills.
NACELLE is the box at the top of a wind turbine. The blades and hub connect to the front of the nacelle. Inside the nacelle there is a gear box and generator to turn the rotation of the blades into electricity.
NATURAL GAS, the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, is a gaseous fossil fuel that is burned in power plants or in home appliances like furnaces, dryers, stoves and water heaters.
NESTLINGS are baby ospreys before they are able to fly.
NITROGEN OXIDE is an undesirable gas that can be created when coal is burned. State-of-the-art boilers burn coal more efficiently so that very little nitrogen oxide is created.
NOCTURNAL describes a creature that sleeps during the day and is most active at night.
NONRENEWABLE means a limited supply; something that can be used up. Fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are nonrenewable.
NUCLEAR FISSION is the splitting of the nuclei of atoms to produce heat and generate electricity.
NUCLEAR FUSION is the joining of the nuclei of atoms to produce heat.
NUCLEAR PLANTS use uranium to create electricity. When the uranium atoms are split inside the nuclear reactor, they release a lot of heat, which is used to make the steam that turns the generator’s turbine.
NUCLEAR REACTOR is the part of the nuclear plant where the uranium atoms are split to produce heat and make the steam that turns the turbines.
OUTAGE is a failure or interruption of electric service, usually caused by damage to power lines or other equipment, as in a storm.
OUTLET is where a plug goes. The electricity passes through the outlet into the plug, through the cord to the appliance or light fixture.
PEAKING PLANTS are power plants that are only turned on when system demand is at its highest peak. These are usually smaller plants that may cost more to operate.
PELLETS are small, dark sacks containing the undigested bones, fur or feathers of small prey that were swallowed whole by owls. Owls regurgitate the pellets six to 10 hours after eating.
PEREGRINE is from the Latin word peregrinus, meaning “wanderer” or “pilgrim.”
PHOTOSYNTHESIS is the way green plant cells turn light into energy and make food for the plant from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis releases oxygen into the air.
PHOTOVOLTAICS is a solar power technology in which sunlight is converted directly into electricity in special cells. Other power sources involve the indirect conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity because it is first stored in plant material (coal and biomass), moving air (wind) or water (hydro).
PIP is to break through the shell of an egg. A baby falcon “pips” to begin hatching.
PITCH refers to turning the angle of the blades of a wind turbine toward the wind, or away from the wind, to control how fast the blades rotate or spin. When the flat side of the blades face the wind, the wind pushes the blades faster. But when the wind is too strong, the flat side of the blades turn away from the wind, so that only the edge of the blades face the wind, to make the blades spin more slowly. This is also called “feathering” the blades. The pitch is controlled by a computer in the wind turbine which measures the speed of the wind. The propeller of a boat uses pitch in a similar way to steer the boat through water.
POWER LINES are the large wires that carry electricity from the power plant to buildings.
PRECIPITATOR is part of the emission control equipment at a coal plant. It has electrostatic plates that act as magnets to remove particles of ash.
PREDATOR is an animal that kills and eats other animals.
PREY are animals that are killed and eaten by predators.
RADIATION is the stream of invisible rays that come from any source of heat, including the sun. Controlled amounts of radiation are used to destroy cancer tumors, reduce static in photocopiers and to toughen the rubber in radial tires for cars and trucks. Since nuclear radiation can be harmful to plants, animals and humans, radioactive material like used-up fuel rods is tightly sealed in containers and stored safely.
RADIOACTIVE is something that gives off rays that go through solid objects.
RAPTOR is a bird that catches other animals for dinner and sometimes carries them off. the word comes from the Latin word raptus, meaning “carried away.”
RDF (REFUSE-DERIVED FUEL) is garbage that has been specially prepared so that it can be burned as fuel in a power plant.
RECYCLE is to turn used resources into new products.
RENEWABLE means something that is in unlimited supply, something that cannot be used up. Energy sources like the sun, the wind and river waters are renewable.
A ROTOR is the part of a wind turbine that includes the blades and the hub that attaches the blades to the nacelle.
SCRAPE is the peregrine’s nest, which is made of stones and pebbles to keep the eggs from rolling away.
SCRUBBERS are equipment that remove gases from combustion air at coal plants. They work like a sprayer. They clean up hot gases by spraying them with a special solution that turns the gases into solids. The solids are then mixed with the ash and removed.
SOLAR POWER is energy from the sun.
SPICULES are short, sharp spines on osprey’s feet. Spicules help osprey hold onto slippery fish, their favorite prey.
STACK is the tall chimney at a power plant.
STEAM is created when water is heated to the boiling point. It expands and creates pressure in a closed space, which creates power.
SUBSTATION is where electricity’s voltage is lowered to levels that will be safe for our homes and other buildings.
SULFUR DIOXIDE is a gas created when coal is burned to generate electricity. Emission control equipment removes as much 85% of the sulfur dioxide from the air that is returned to the atmosphere.
TALONS are the sharp claws of falcons and other birds of prey. A peregrine uses its talons to knock its prey out of the air and carry it off.
TECHNOLOGY is a way of using science to make things, solve problems and do work.
TIERCEL is a male falcon.
A TRANSFORMER is the device that steps up electric current to a higher voltage, so that it will be strong enough to travel long distances through transmission lines. Then a different transformer steps down electricity to a lower voltage so it can travel through distribution lines to our neighborhoods. A transformer trades voltage for current just like the gears of a bicycle trade speed for push.
TRANSMISSION LINES are high power lines that carry high-voltage electricity from power plants to neighborhood substations.
TURBINE is a machine with fan-like blades that spins the generator inside a power plant when its blades are pushed around by steam or moving water.
URANIUM is a naturally occurring element that is mined like many other ores. Although it is expensive to find and prepare for use as fuel in a nuclear plant, a very small amount of uranium can generate a lot of electricity. A single pound of uranium has as much energy as about three million pounds of coal.
VOLTS measure the force of electricity. The voltage is raised so the electricity can travel a long way through transmission lines. At a substation the voltage is lowered to a safe level before it is brought to our homes and other buildings.
WASTE WOOD is left-over wood that lumber companies don’t use to make boards. It can be burned as fuel in some power plants.
WATT is a measure of energy use. Light bulbs, for example, are classified according to how many watts they use.
WEATHERIZE is a way to describe many things done to a building to save energy by preventing the loss of heat in the winter or cool air in the summer.
WEATHERSTRIPPING is strips of material that cover cracks around doors and windows to prevent air from leaking in or out.
WIND POWER is created from the power of wind turning turbine blades to generate electricity, pump water or run mills.
WINTER OVER is to spend the winter in a cold place instead of migrating. Although most peregrine falcons fly to open water in the southern part of the United States, Central America or South America for the winter, some stay in the north all winter, or winter over.
A YAW SYSTEM is the mechanism that keeps a wind turbine facing into the wind. It uses a system of gears at the top of the tower to turn the nacelle into the wind.