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Renewable Energy Glossary
Active solar: As an energy source, energy from the sun collected and stored using mechanical pumps or fans to circulate heat-laden fluids or air between solar collectors and a building.
Adverse water conditions: Reduced stream flow, lack of rain in the drainage basin, or low water supply behind a pondage or reservoir dam resulting in a reduced gross head that limits the production of hydroelectric power or forces restrictions to be placed on multipurpose reservoirs or other water uses.
Adverse Weather Conditions: Reduced streamflow, lack of rain in the drainage basin, or low water supply behind a pondage or reservoir dam resulting in a reduced gross head that limits the production of hydroelectric power or forces restrictions to be placed on multipurpose reservoirs or other water uses.
Amorphous silicon: An alloy of silica and hydrogen, with a disordered, noncrystalline internal atomic arrangement, that can be deposited in thin-film layers (a few micrometers inthickness) by a number of deposition methods to produce thin-film photovoltaic cells on glass, metal, or plastic substrates.
Average water conditions: The amount and distribution of precipitation within a drainage basin and the run off conditions present as determined by reviewing the area water supply records over a long period of time.
Biodiesel: A fuel typically made from soybean, canola, or other vegetable oils; animal fats; and recycled grease. It can serve as a substitute for petroleum-derived diesel or distillate fuel. For EIA reporting, it is a fuel composed of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100, and meeting the requirements of ASTM (American Society for Testing materials) D 6751.
Biofuels: Liquid fuels and blending components produced from biomass feedstocks, used primarily for transportation.
Biogenic: Produced by biological processes of living organisms. Note: EIA uses the term "biogenic" to refer only to organic non-fossil material of biological origin.
Biomass: Organic non-fossil material of biological origin constituting a renewable energy source.
Biomass gas: A medium Btu gas containing methane and carbon dioxide, resulting from the action of microorganisms on organic materials such as a landfill.
Biomass waste: Organic non-fossil material of biological origin that is a byproduct or a discarded product. Biomass waste includes municipal solid waste from biogenic sources, landfill gas, sludge waste, agricultural crop byproducts, straw, and other biomass solids, liquids, and gases; but excludes wood and wood-derived fuels (including black liquor), biofuels feedstock, biodiesel, and fuel ethanol. Note: EIA biomass waste data also include energy crops grown specifically for energy production, which would not normally constitute waste.
Biomass-based diesel fuel: Biodiesel and other renewable diesel fuel or diesel fuel blending components derived from biomass, but excluding renewable diesel fuel co-processed with petroleum feedstocks.
Black liquor: A by product of the paper production process, alkaline spent liquor, that can be used as a source of energy. Alkaline spent liquor is removed from the digesters in the process of chemically pulping wood. After evaporation, the residual "black" liquor is burned as a fuel in a recovery furnace that permits the recovery of certain basic chemicals.
Cells: Refers to the un-encapsulated semi-conductor components of the module that convert the solar energy to electricity.
Combined hydroelectric plant: A hydroelectric plant that uses both pumped water and natural streamflow for the production of power.
Combined pumped-storage plant: A pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant that uses both pumped water and natural stream flow to produce electricity.
Concentrating solar power or solar thermal power system: A solar energy conversion system characterized by the optical concentration of solar rays through an arrangement of mirrors to generate a high temperature working fluid. Also see Solar trough, Solar power tower, or Solar dish. Concentrating solar power (but not Solar thermal power) may also refer to a system that focuses solar rays on a photovoltaic cell to increase conversion efficiency.
Concentrator: A reflective or refractive device that focuses incident insolation onto an area smaller than the reflective or refractive surface, resulting in increased insolation at the point of focus.
Conventional hydroelectric plant: A plant in which all of the power is produced from natural streamflow as regulated by available storage.
Cord of wood: A cord of wood measures 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet, or 128 cubic feet.
Cull wood: Wood logs, chips, or wood products that are burned.
Dam: A physical barrier constructed across a river or waterway to control the flow of or raise the level of water. The purpose of construction may be for flood control, irrigation needs, hydroelectric power production, and/or recreation usage.
Externalities: Benefits or costs, generated as a byproduct of an economic activity, that do not accrue to the parties involved in the activity. Environmental externalities are benefits or costs that manifest themselves through changes in the physical or biological environment.
Flow control: The laws, regulations, and economic incentives or disincentives used by waste managers to direct waste generated in a specific geographic area to a designated landfill, recycling, or waste-to-energy facility.
Fuel wood: Wood and wood products, possibly including scrubs and branches, etc, bought or gathered, and used by direct combustion.
Geothermal energy: Hot water or steam extracted from geothermal reservoirs in the earth's crust. Water or steam extracted from geothermal reservoirs can be used for geothermal heat pumps, water heating, or electricity generation.
Geothermal plant: A plant in which the prime mover is a steam turbine. The turbine is driven either by steam produced from hot water or by natural steam that derives its energy from heat found in rock.
Green pricing: In the case of renewable electricity, green pricing represents a market solution to the various problems associated with regulatory valuation of the nonmarket benefits of renewables. Green pricing programs allow electricity customers to express their willingness to pay for renewable energy development through direct payments on their monthly utility bills.
Heat pump (geothermal): A heat pump in which the refrigerant exchanges heat (in a heat exchanger) with a fluid circulating through an earth connection medium (ground or ground water). The fluid is contained in a variety of loop (pipe) configurations depending on the temperature of the ground and the ground area available. Loops may be installed horizontally or vertically in the ground or submersed in a body of water.
Heat pump efficiency: The efficiency of a heat pump, that is, the electrical energy to operate it, is directly related to temperatures between which it operates. Geothermal heat pumps are more efficient than conventional heat pumps or air conditioners that use the outdoor air since the ground or ground water a few feet below the earth's surface remains relatively constant throughout the year. It is more efficient in the winter to draw heat from the relatively warm ground than from the atmosphere where the air temperature is much colder, and in summer transfer waste heat to the relatively cool ground than to hotter air. Geothermal heat pumps are generally more expensive($2,000-$5,000) to install than outside air heat pumps. However, depending on the location geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption (operating cost) and correspondingly, emissions by more than 20 percent compared to high-efficiency outside air heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps also use the waste heat from air-conditioning to provide free hot water heating in the summer.
Heating stove burning wood, coal, or coke: Any free-standing box or controlled-draft stove; or a stove installed in a fireplace opening, using the chimney of the fireplace. Stoves are made of cast iron, sheet metal, or plate steel. Free-standing fireplaces that can be detached from their chimneys are considered heating stoves.
Hot dry rock: Heat energy residing in impermeable, crystalline rock. Hydraulic fracturing may be used to create permeability to enable circulation of water and removal of the heat.
Hub height: In a horizontal-axis wind turbine, the distance from the turbine platform to the rotor shaft.
Hydraulic fracturing: Fracturing of rock at depth with fluid pressure. Hydraulic fracturing at depth may be accomplished by pumping water into a well at very high pressures. Under natural conditions, vapor pressure may rise high enough to cause fracturing in a process known as hydrothermal brecciation.
Hydraulic head: The distance between the respective elevations of the upstream water surface (headwater) above and the downstream surface water (tail water) below a hydroelectric power plant.
Hydroelectric power: The use of flowing water to produce electrical energy.
Intermittent electric generator or intermittent resource: An electric generating plant with output controlled by the natural variability of the energy resource rather than dispatched based on system requirements. Intermittent output usually results from the direct, non-stored conversion of naturally occurring energy fluxes such as solar energy, wind energy, or the energy of free-flowing rivers (that is, run-of-river hydroelectricity).
Kaplan turbine: A type of turbine that that has two blades whose pitch is adjustable. The turbine may have gates to control the angle of the fluid flow into the blades.
Landfill gas: Gas that is generated by decomposition of organic material at landfill disposal sites. The average composition of landfill gas is approximately 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide and water vapor by volume. The methane percentage, however, can vary from 40 to 60 percent, depending on several factors including waste composition (e.g. carbohydrate and cellulose content). The methane in landfill gas may be vented, flared, combusted to generate electricity or useful thermal energy on-site, or injected into a pipeline for combustion off-site.
Low head: Vertical difference of 100 feet or less in the upstream surface water elevation (headwater) and the downstream surface water elevation (tail water) at a dam.
Mass burn facility: A type of municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration facility in which MSW is burned with only minor presorting to remove oversize, hazardous, or explosive materials.
Median water condition: The middle precipitation and run-off condition for a distribution of water conditions that have happened over a long period of time. Usually determined by examining the water supply record of the period in question.
Minimum streamflow: The lowest rate of flow of water past a given point during a specified period.
Modules: Photovoltaic cells or an assembly of cells into panels (modules) intended for and shipped for final consumption or to another organization for resale. When exported, incomplete modules and unencapsulated cells are also included. Modules used for space applications are not included.
Multiple purpose reservoir: Stored water and its usage governed by advanced water resource conservation practices to achieve more than one water control objective. Some of the objectives include flood control, hydroelectric power development, irrigation, recreation usage, and wilderness protection.
Municipal solid waste: Residential solid waste and some nonhazardous commercial, institutional, and industrial wastes.
Municipal waste: As defined in the Energy Security Act (P.L. 96-294; 1980) as "any organic matter, including sewage, sewage sludge, and industrial or commercial waste, and mixtures of such matter and inorganic refuse from any publicly or privately operated municipal waste collection or similar disposal system, or from similar waste flows (other than such flows which constitute agricultural wastes or residues, or wood wastes or residues from wood harvesting activities or production of forest products)."
Net head: The gross head minus all hydraulic losses except those chargeable to the turbine.
Non-biomass waste: Material of non-biological origin that is a byproduct or a discarded product. "Non-biomass waste" includes municipal solid waste from non-biogenic sources, such as plastics, and tire-derived fuels.
Nonrenewable fuels: Fuels that cannot be easily made or "renewed," such as oil, natural gas, and coal.
Ocean energy systems: Energy conversion technologies that harness the energy in tides, waves, and thermal gradients in the oceans.
Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC): The process or technologies for producing energy by harnessing the temperature differences (thermal gradients) between ocean surface waters and that of ocean depths. Warm surface water is pumped through an evaporator containing a working fluid in a closed Rankine-cycle system. The vaporized fluid drives a turbine/generator.
Offshore: That geographic area that lies seaward of the coastline. In general, the coastline is the line of ordinary low water along with that portion of the coast that is in direct contact with the open sea or the line marking the seaward limit of inland water. If a state agency uses a different basis for classifying onshore and offshore areas, the state classification should be used (e.g., Cook Inlet in Alaska is classified as offshore; for Louisiana, the coastline is defined as the Chapman Line, as modified by subsequent adjudication).
Parabolic dish: A high-temperature (above 180 degrees Fahrenheit) solar thermal concentrator, generally bowl-shaped, with two-axis tracking.
Parabolic trough: A high-temperature (above 180 degrees Fahrenheit) solar thermal concentrator with the capacity for tracking the sun using one axis of rotation.
Passive solar heating: A solar heating system that uses no external mechanical power, such as pumps or blowers, to move the collected solar heat.
Photovoltaic and solar thermal energy: Energy radiated by the sun as electromagnetic waves (electromagnetic radiation) that is converted at electric utilities into electricity by means of solar (photovoltaic) cells or concentrating (focusing) collectors.
Photovoltaic cell (PVC): An electronic device consisting of layers of semiconductor materials fabricated to form a junction (adjacent layers of materials with different electronic characteristics) and electrical contacts and being capable of converting incident light directly into electricity (direct current).
Photovoltaic module: An integrated assembly of interconnected photovoltaic cells designed to deliver a selected level of working voltage and current at its output terminals, packaged for protection against environmental degradation, and suited for incorporation in photovoltaic power systems.
Pondage: The amount of water stored behind a hydroelectric dam of relatively small storage capacity; the dam ususually used for daily or weekly control of the flow of the river.
Preliminary permit (hydroelectric power): A single site permit granted by the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), which gives the recipient priority over anyone else to apply for a hydroelectric license. The preliminary permit enables the recipient to prepare a license application and conduct various studies for economic feasibility and environmental impacts. The period for a preliminary permit may extend to 3 years.
Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978: The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of1978, passed by the U.S. Congress. This statute requires States to implement utility conservation programs and create special markets for co-generators and small producers who meet certain standards, including the requirement that States set the prices and quantities of power the utilities must buy from such facilities.
Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978: One part of the National Energy Act, PURPA contains measures designed to encourage the conservation of energy, more efficient use of resources, and equitable rates. Principal among these were suggested retail rate reforms and new incentives for production of electricity by co-generators and users of renewable resources. The Commission has primary authority for implementing several key PURPA programs.
Pulp chips: Timber or residues processed into small pieces of wood of more or less uniform dimensions with minimal amounts of bark.
Pulp wood: Roundwood, whole-tree chips, or wood residues.
Pulping liquor (black liquor): The alkaline spent liquor removed from the digesters in the process of chemically pulping wood. After evaporation, the liquor is burned as a fuel in a recovery furnace that permits the recovery of certain basic chemicals.
Pumped-storage hydroelectric plant: A plant that usually generates electric energy during peak load periods by using water previously pumped into an elevated storage reservoir during off-peak periods when excess generating capacity is available to do so. When additional generating capacity is needed, the water can be released from the reservoir through a conduit to turbine generators located in a power plant at a lower level.
PVCs that convert sunlight directly into energy: A method for producing energy by converting sunlight using photovoltaic cells (PVCs) that are solid-state single converter devices. Although currently not in wide usage, commercial customers have a growing interest in usage and, therefore, DOE has a growing interest in the impact of PVCs on energy consumption. Economically, PVCs are competitive with other sources of electricity.
Qualifying facility (QF): A cogeneration or small power production facility that meets certain ownership, operating, and efficiency criteria established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).
Reforestation: Replanting of forests on lands that have recently been harvested or otherwise cleared of trees.
Refuse-derived fuel (RDF): A fuel produced by shredding municipal solid waste (MSW). Noncombustible materials such as glass and metals are generally removed prior to making RDF. The residual material is sold as-is or compressed into pellets, bricks, or logs. RDF processing facilities are typically located near a source of MSW, while the RDF combustion facility can be located else where.
Regulated streamflow: The rate of flow past agiven point during a specified period that is controlled by reservoir water release operation.
Renewable diesel fuel (other): Diesel fuel and diesel fuel blending components produced from renewable sources that are co-processed with petroleum feedstocks and meet requirements of advanced biofuels. Note: This category "other" pertains to the petroleum supply data system.
Renewable energy resources: Energy resources that are naturally replenishing but flow-limited. They are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time. Renewable energy resources include biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action, and tidal action.
Renewable fuels (other): Fuels and fuel blending components, except biomass-based diesel fuel, renewable diesel fuel, and fuel ethanol, produced from renewable biomass. Note: This category "other" pertains to the petroleum supply data system.
Reversible turbine: A hydraulic turbine, normally installed in a pumped-storage plant, which can be used alternatively as a pump or as an engine, turbine, water wheel, or other apparatus that drives an electrical generator.
Ribbon silicon: Crystalline silicon that is used in photovoltaic cells. Ribbon silicon is fabricated by a variety of solidification (crystallization) methods that withdraw thin silicon sheets from pools of relatively pure molten silicon.
Roundwood: Wood cut specifically for use as a fuel.
Run off: That portion of the precipitation that flows over the land surface and ultimately reaches streams to complete the water cycle. Melting snow is an important source of this water as well as all amounts of surface water that move to streams or rivers through any given area of a drainage basin.
Run-of-river hydroelectric plant: A low-head plant using the flow of a stream as it occurs and having little or no reservoir capacity for storage.
Seasoned wood: Wood, used for fuel, that has been air dried so that it contains 15 to 20 percent moisture content (wetbasis).
Series connection: A way of joining photovoltaic cells by connecting positive leads to negative leads; such a configuration increases the voltage.
Series resistance: Parasitic resistance to current flow in a cell due to mechanisms such as resistance from the bulk of the semiconductor material, metallic contacts, and interconnections.
Single crystal silicon: An extremely pure form of crystalline silicon produced by dipping a single crystal seed into apool of molten silicon under high vacuum conditions and slowly withdrawing a solidifying single crystal boule (rod) of silicon. The boule is sawed into thin silicon wafers and fabricated into single-crystal photovoltaic cells.
Single crystal silicon (Czochralsky): Silicon cells with a well-ordered crystalline structure consisting of one crystal (usually obtained by means of the Czochralsky growth techniqueand involving in got slicing), composing a module. Ribbon silicon is excluded.
Small power producer (SPP): Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), a small power production facility (or small power producer) generates electricity using waste, renewable (biomass, conventional hydroelectric, wind and solar, and geothermal) energy as a primary energy source. Fossil fuels can be used, but renewable resource must provide at least 75 percent of the total energy input. (See Code of Federal Regulations, Title 18, Part 292.)
Solar cell: See Photovoltaic cell
Solar cooling: The use of solar thermal energy or solar electricity to power a cooling appliance. There are five basic types of solar cooling technologies absorption cooling, which can use solar thermal energy to vaporize the refrigerant; desiccant cooling, which can use solar thermal energy to regenerate(dry) the desiccant; vapor compression cooling, which can use solar thermal energy to operate a Rankine-cycle heat engine; and evaporative coolers ("swamp" coolers), and heat-pumps and air conditioners that canby powered by solar photovoltaic systems.
Solar dish: See Parabolic dish
Solar energy: The radiant energy of the sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.
Solar pond: A body of water that contains brackish (highly saline) water that forms layers of differing salinity (stratifies) that absorb and trap solar energy. Solar ponds can be used to provide heat for industrial or agricultural processes, building heating and cooling, and to generate electricity.
Solar power tower: A solar energy conversion system that uses a large field of independently adjustable mirrors(heliostats) to focus solar rays on a near single point atop a fixed tower (receiver). The concentrated energy may be used to directly heat the working fluid of a Rankine cycle engine or to heat an intermediary thermal storage medium (such as a molten salt).
Solar radiation: A general term for the visible and near visible (ultraviolet and near-infrared) electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by the sun. It has a spectral, or wavelength,distribution that corresponds to different energy levels; short wavelength radiation has a higher energy than long-wavelength radiation.
Solar thermal collector: A device designed to receive solar radiation and convert it to thermal energy. Normally, a solar thermal collector includes a frame, glazing, and an absorber, together with appropriate insulation. The heat collected by the solar collector may be used immediately or stored for later use. Solar collectors are used for space heating; domestic hot water heating; and heating swimming pools, hot tubs, or spas.
Solar thermal collector, high temperature: A collector that generally operates at temperatures above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Solar thermal collector, low-temperature: A collector that generally operates at temperatures below 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, it has no glazing or insulation and is made of plastic or rubber, although some are made of metal.
Solar thermal collector, medium-temperature: A collector that generally operates at temperatures of 140 degrees F to180 degrees Fahrenheit, but can also operate at temperatures as low as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, it has one or two glazings, a metal frame, a metal absorption panel with integral flow channels or attached tubing (liquid collector) or with integral ducting (air collector) and insulation on the sides and back of the panel.
Solar thermal collector, special: An evacuated tube collector or a concentrating (focusing) collector. Special collectors operate in the temperature range from just above ambient temperature (low concentration for pool heating) to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit (high concentration for air conditioning and specialized industrial processes).
Solar thermal panels: A system that actively concentrates thermal energy from the sun by means of solar collector panels. The panels typically consist of fat, sun-oriented boxes with transparent covers, containing water tubes of air baffles under a blackened heat absorbent panel. The energy is usually used for space heating, for water heating, and for heating swimming pools.
Solar thermal parabolic dishes: A solar thermal technology that uses a modular mirror system that approximates aparabol a and incorporates two-axis tracking to focus the sunlight onto receivers located at the focal point of each dish. The mirror system typically is made from a number of mirror facets, either glass or polymer mirror, or can consist of a single stretched membrane using a polymer mirror. The concentrated sunlight may be used directly by a Stirling, Rankine, or Brayton cycle heat engine at the focal point ofthe receiver or to heat a working fluid that is piped to a central engine. The primary applications include remote electrification, waterpumping, and grid-connected generation.
Solar trough or solar parabolic trough: See Parabolic trough
Special collector: An evacuated tube collector or a concentrating (focusing) collector. Special collectors operate in the temperature range from just above ambient temperature (low concentration for pool heating) to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit (high concentration for air conditioning and specialized industrial processes).
Stream-flow: The rate at which water passes a given point in a stream, usually expressed in cubic feet per second.
Temperature coefficient (of a solar photovoltaiccell): The amount that the voltage, current, and/or power output of asolar cell changes due to a change in the cell temperature.
Thermophotovoltaic cell: A device where sunlight concentrated onto a absorber heats it to a high temperature, and the thermal radiation emitted by the absorber is used as the energy source for a photovoltaic cell that is designed to maximize conversion efficiency at the wavelength of the thermal radiation.
Thermosiphon system: A solar collector system for water heating in which circulation of the collection fluid through the storage loop is provided solely by the temperature and density difference between the hot and cold fluids.
Tipping fee: Price charged to deliver municipal solid waste to a landfill, waste-to-energy facility, or recycling facility.
Trough: High-temperature (180+) concentrator with one axis-tracking.
Unglazed solar collector: A solar thermal collector that has an absorber that does not have a glazed covering. Solar swimming pool heater systems usually use unglazed collectors because they circulate relatively large volumes of water through the collector and capture nearly 80 percent of the solar energy available.
Vapor-dominated geothermal system: A conceptual model of a hydrothermal system where steam pervades the rock and is the pressure-controlling fluid phase.
Variable-speed wind turbines: Turbines in which the rotor speed increases and decreases with changing wind speed, producing electricity with a variable frequency.
Vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT): A type of wind turbine in which the axis of rotation is perpendicular to the windstream and the ground.
Wafer: A thin sheet of semiconductor (photovoltaic material) made by cutting it from a single crystal or ingot.
Waste: See Biomass waste and Non-biomass waste.
Water pumping: Photovoltaic modules/cells used for pumping water for agricultural, land reclamation, commercial, and other similar applications where water pumping is the main use.
Water turbine: A turbine that uses water pressure to rotate its blades; the primary types are the Pelton wheel, for high heads (pressure); the Francis turbine, for low to medium heads; and the Kaplan for a wide range of heads. Primarily used to power an electric generator.
Wind energy: Kinetic energy present in wind motion that can be converted to mechanical energy for driving pumps, mills, and electric power generators.
Wind energy conversion system (WECS) or device: An apparatus for converting the energy available in the wind to mechanical energy that can be used to power machinery (grain mills, water pumps) and to operate an electrical generator.
Wind farm: See Wind power plant.
Wind power plant: A group of wind turbines interconnected to a common utility system through a system of transformers, distribution lines, and (usually) one substation. Operation, control, and maintenance functions are often centralized through a network of computerized monitoring systems, supplemented by visual inspection. This is a term commonly used in the United States. In Europe, it is called a generating station.
Wind turbine: Wind energy conversion device that produces electricity; typically three blades rotating about a horizontal axis and positioned up-wind of the supporting tower.
Wood energy: Wood and wood products used as fuel, including round wood (cord wood), limb wood, wood chips, bark, saw dust, forest residues, charcoal, pulp waste, and spent pulping liquor.
Wood pellets: Saw dust compressed into uniform diameter pellets to be burned in a heating stove.
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