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Industry terminology

Agrivoltaics: Agrivoltaics is the combination of food and electricity production. Applications typically involve solar photovoltaic systems on the same land where crops grow. Crops with solar panels overhead need less water and therefore grow more efficiently.

Battery management system: A battery management system is a technology that regulates and monitors the battery performance. Its functions include ensuring optimal overall performance and longevity. It does this by mananging cell voltage, current, temperature and charge balancing, and by managing charge control along with internal circuit shorts. 

Behind-the-meter: “Behind-the-meter” refers to energy production and storage technology, such as a solar array, that directly supplies buildings with electricity. This energy does not have to pass through a meter in order to be used in on-site locations. 

Bifacial solar: Is a solar technology in which solar cells on both sides of solar panels are exposed. It collects direct sunlight and reflected light off the surface below racking. With this technology, less panels and space is needed to generate a greater amount of electricity. 

Biodigester: The term biodigester refers to a biological system that digests organic waste from humans and animals to produce fertilizer and biogas. Biogas can be used for electricity generation.

Bifacial solar: Bifacial solar is a solar technology in which solar cells on both sides of panels are exposed. This allows for collection of direct sunlight and reflected light off the surface below racking. With this technology, less panels and space is needed to generate a greater amount of electricity.

Biomass: Biomass is an organic, renewable energy resource that comes from plants and animals. It is a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels and can be used as a resource for transportation and electricity generation. Biomass energy sources include agricultural crops and waste materials, animal manure and human sewage, biogenic materials in municipal solid waste, and wood and wood processing wastes.

Biomass waste: Biomass waste refers to any organic material of biological origin that is left over or discarded, such as agricultural waste, sludge waste, landfill gas and biogenic waste, excluding wood, wood-derived fuels, biodiesel, biofuel feedstock, and fuel ethanol.

Bitcoin mining: Bitcoin mining is a term that describes the way new bitcoins enter into circulation and the way the network confirms new transactions. It is a crucial part of the maintenance and development of the blockchain ledger. Mining is a way to earn cryptocurrency without putting money down. Bitcoin miners receive Bitcoin as a reward for completing blocks of verified transactions. 

Blue hydrogen: Blue hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, but employs carbon capture and storage (CSS) to prevent CO2 from escaping into the environment. It is the second “cleanest” form of hydrogen after green hydrogen.

Brownfield: A brownfield is a section previously developed land that has been polluted, and then abandoned. Common brownfield sites include industrial and commercial developments.

Commercial solar: Commercial solar refers to the use of solar energy systems in the context of businesses and organizations. This clean and renewable energy source is becoming increasingly popular due to its effectiveness in reducing energy costs and promoting sustainability. The commercial solar industry exists as a middle ground between the smaller residential market and the larger-scale utility sector.

Community solar: Community solar is a concept where public or private investors build arrays and then sell or lease parts of the array to private citizens to offset their usage. The benefits of the solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups.

Concentrated solar power (CSP): Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a technology that uses mirrors or lenses to focus sunlight onto a small area, producing heat that can be used to generate electricity.

Decarbonization: Decarbonization literally means the reduction of carbon. It refers to transitioning away from economic systems that produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses in order to promote a CO2 free global economy. 

Electrolyser: An electrolyser produces green hydrogen by using electricity in a chemical process called electrolysis to separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules of water. Renewable electricity is used in the process, making electrolysers key factors in green hydrogen production. 

Energy as a service agreement (EaaS): An energy as a service agreement (EaaS) refers to the mutually beneficial financing solution between three parties: customer, third party owner and design-build contractor. This ownership model allows for the customer to pay a subscription-based energy service fee to a third party, such as an investment firm.

Energy service agreement (ESA): An ESA is a relatively new kind of third party funding option which enables the customer to install renewable systems and energy efficiency upgrades with zero upfront costs. ESAs involve a third party investor or developer that provides the capital to install and maintain energy systems for a client. 

Energy transition: The energy transition refers to the ongoing process of removing non-renewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels, and replacing them with renewable energy sources. This transition is a significant shift in the energy market, and calls for structural change in supply and consumption of energy.

EPC services: EPC stands for engineering, procurement and construction. Instead of transferring the design plan to a construction company or adopting a plan from an engineering company, EPC services allow for contractors to support their clients throughout the entire life cycle of a project.

ESG: ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance, which describes the three key factors used to evaluate the sustainability and ethical impact of a company’s operations and investments. ESG considerations are increasingly important as investors seek to align their investments with their values and support companies that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility.

ESG Investing: ESG stands for environmental, social and governance. These are the criteria used to evaluate how sustainable or socially responsible an investment’s financial returns and overall impact are. A company’s ESG rating can help investors avoid financial risk due to environmental performance or other social or governmental practices.

​​Feed-in tariff: A feed-in tariff is a government-supported mechanism that helps accelerate the shift towards renewable energy sources. This incentivizes the installation of small-scale renewable energy systems, such as solar arrays and energy storage systems to help foster a cleaner energy mix within the grid.

Front-of-meter: “Front-of-meter” refers to energy production and storage technology, such as any utility transmission lines, power equipment or utility scale solar systems that are housed off-site. This energy has to pass through a meter in order to be used at on-site locations. 

Green building: Green buildings are structures designed to be environmentally sustainable, typically using renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies. Certifications are available to showcase the sustainable practices of green buildings, including LEED, WELL, Energystar and the Living Building Challenge.

Greenfield: A greenfield is a site that have not been built on before, often in rural or countryside areas. Typically, a greenfield project entails development on a completely vacant site without constraints from previous construction.

Green hydrogen: Green Hydrogen is created using renewable energy to power electrolysis, the process in which hydrogen is created. This process is a carbon neutral one with no negative environmental impacts.

Inverter: An inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) electricity from solar panels or batteries into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power homes and businesses.

Investment tax credit (ITC): An investment tax credit is a federal incentive for business investment. ITCs allow for businesses and individuals to deduct a certain percentage of investment costs from taxes. The recent Inflation Reduction Act strengthened ITCs for clean energy solutions.

Iron flow batteries: Iron flow batteries are one of the only environmentally safe commercial battery technologies available, as iron is a non-toxic and earth abundant material. They use electrolytes made of iron salts in ionized form to store energy to be used at optimum times. 

LEED certification: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is the most widely recognized green building rating system in the world. The points-based system certifies that a construction or renovation project is green, meaning that the project reduces or eliminates negative environmental impacts and/or creates positive ones. 

Long duration energy storage: Long duration energy storage refers to energy storage systems that can hold between 5 and 1,000 hours of energy discharge. This a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of energy storage technologies.

Measurement & verification (M&V): M&V is the process of quantifying savings delivered by energy conservation and renewable energy projects. Because savings cannot be directly measured, M&V is a practice that demonstrates the amount of energy and demand that has been “avoided” as a result of energy conservation Measures (ECMs) and energy supply options, such as solar production.

Microgrid: A microgrid is a local energy grid with control capacity, or the ability to operate autonomously and disconnect from the grid. It can be powered by distributed generators, batteries and/or renewable sources such as solar panels. 

Microgrid controller: Microgrid controllers are intelligent devices that  optimize and manage systems within a microgrid in real time. These systems can include: storage, loads, solar and other power generators. Microgrid controllers require no human intervention.

Net metering: Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. This allows for customers to send the excess energy they produce back to the grid, and receive credits from their utility for the energy they add to the grid. These credits can then be used to offset the customer’s future energy bills when their solar energy system isn’t generating sufficient power.

Net Zero: Net zero electric is achieved when the amount of electricity your facility used equals the amount that’s been produced through renewable energy. Just having solar cannot get you to net zero. The process to achieve net zero electric entails assessing and improving all aspects of your facility, with a specific emphasis on reducing electrical peak demand. 

Operations & maintenance: Operations & maintenance (O&M) services are vital across all industries. They ensure that your renewable or energy efficiency systems provide the best possible generation or performance. O&M service categories include reliability centered, preventative, predictive and reactive maintenance.

Peak shaving: Peak shaving involves reducing energy consumption at peak periods in the day (or even in a year). It reduces the maximum power drawn at any one time. “Shaving” the peak is achieved by staggering machine start times. 

Phantom load: Phantom load describes devices that consume electricity when turned off but still plugged into an outlet. Phantom loads are a waste of energy and money and tend to occur over the holidays when many offices are vacant. 

Power purchase agreement (PPA): A power purchase agreement (PPA) is a contractual financial agreement between a customer and a third party developer. The third party sells power back to the customer at a lower rate than the grid with no up-front costs.

Project financing: Project financing is a loan structure used to fund long-term infrastructure, industrial projects, and public services. This financing relies mainly on the project’s cash flow for repayment, with the project’s assets, rights, and interests held as secondary collateral. Essentially, the debt and equity used to finance the project are paid back using the cash flow generated by the project itself.

Renewable energy certificates: Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are issued when one MWh of electricity is generated from a renewable power source and delivered to the electricity grid. They play an important role in accounting for and tracking ownership of renewable electricity generation and use, which is required under some state regulations.

Renewable natural gas: Decarbonization literally means the reduction of carbon. It refers to transitioning away from economic systems that produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses in order to promote a CO2 free global economy.

Renewable Portfolio Standard: A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a government-mandated policy that requires electricity suppliers to generate a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources by a specific deadline. This policy is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the development of renewable energy technologies.

Single axis trackers: Single axis trackers are a technology that adjusts the position of a solar panel along an axis to follow the sun’s changing position in order to maximize energy production. The panel is adjusted to create the smallest angle of incidence (angle at which the sun hits a solar panel). 

Sleeved PPA: A sleeved power purchase agreement (PPA) is a type of contract used in the renewable energy industry to finance the development and construction of new projects. The “sleeved” aspect of the PPA refers to the fact that the agreement is structured as a “sleeve” or a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that is separate from the developer and off-taker. 

Solar developer: A solar developer, or project developer, is a company that guides a solar farm from an idea to reality (specifically, the point when it’s ready for construction). Solar developers work across the supply chain to implement energy solutions for organizations.

Solar EPC: EPC stands for engineering, procurement and construction. Solar EPC services include engineering and system design, equipment procurement, construction, permitting and paperwork, interconnection and system performance monitoring.

Solar inverter: Solar inverters are a supplemental technology designed to invert direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC). Solar panels produce DC electricity and your building or facility likely runs on AC electricity, making inverters a necessary middleman in the electricity conversion process. 

Solar PPA: A solar power purchase agreement is an alternative funding option for solar technology. It is a contractual financial agreement between a customer and a third party developer. The third party sells power back to the customer at a lower rate than the rid, and no upfront capital payment is required from the customer. 

Sustainability: Sustainability is the ongoing effort and goal to maintain ecological balance with the environment. Much of sustainability consists of preserving natural resources, in addition to adapting new processes to avoid or reduce the production of greenhouse gases. 

Triple net zero: Triple net zero means that net zero waste has been achieved in three categories: energy, water and waste. The Seventy-Six complex in Albany, New York is the world’s first triple net-zero development. 

Virtual power plant (VPP): A virtual power plant is a network of decentralized, medium-scale power generators, flexible power consumers and storage systems that stimulate power plants without taking over the landscape. A VPP can include batteries, wind and/or solar farms and CHP units. 

Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA): Virtual power purchase agreements are between a corporation and a developer. In this agreement a developer sets a fixed price for each unit of electricity produced over a specified time period and sells these units to local power grids. These agreements facilitate corporate sustainability and decarbonization across the grid.

Waste-to-energy (WTE): Waste-to-energy (WTE) is the process of generating energy, typical in the form of heat or electricity, using heat as a fuel source. This process often involves burning the waste using incinerators. Burning waste boils water that turns to steam and spins turbines, creating electricity. Heat from the actual combustion can also be used.

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