area control error: in the electric grid, adjustments to generators to ensure that each control area is generating the correct amount of energy (according to power purchase agreements between control areas). Typically measured every few seconds, its formula is (average frequency in control area) * bias + (net unscheduled tie-line flows into or out of the area), where bias accounts for the MWs of energy needed within the control area to offset an frequency shift of 0.01 Hz Graves, 3-17

AC meters

absorption-attenuation meter, an optical sensor


alternative compliance payment: amount that electricity suppliers have to pay if they aren't able to generate or buy rights to sufficient renewable energy to meet their renewable portfolio standards


the assurance to a buyer of a carbon market that the money spent is really eliciting a reduction in carbon


alternative energy development plan


Portmanteau of affluence and influenza, relating to overload, debt, anxiety and waste from consumerism Friedman, 53


automatic generation control uses an area control error (ACE) signal to adjust the governors of electrical generation plants for droop control - keeping all the grid generators running at the same frequency

agger double tide

a tide having two equal-height maxima and one low minimum


the use of sustainable farming methods on small-scale farms based on the combination of local knowledge and modern science. Based on the principle that farming should maximize species diversity and enhance natural systems of soil protection and pest control




an electrical generator that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy in the form of alternating current


advanced metering functionality, the broad capabilities enabled by the existence of AMI (smart meters and related technologies)


advanced metering infrastructure "commonly defined as an integrated network of smart meters, communication networks, and data management systems, which has the potential to transform how utilities, customers, and third-party providers manage electricity generation, delivery, and use" Girouard

ancillary services

in the context of the electrical grid, services which support the trade of electricity, useful primarily for their potential to deliver a needed resource to the grid on request, quantifiable by their ability to respond when needed Kirschen, 106


producing no neutrons


the name of the current geologic period, implying that the geology of the Earth (through climate change, nuclear fallout, river diversion, monoculture farming, ocean acidification, etc.) is being dominantly affected by humans


the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset to profit from a difference in price


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: 2009 bill which included some bonus ITC + PTC as temporary economic stimulus EIA, 33


fish farming


amorphous silicon


Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle: hybrid, compressed natural gas, and methanol fuel cell vehicles with near-zero emissions and extended emissions system warranties EIA, 35


automatic voltage regulator - in an electrical grid, this adjusts the field voltage of the generator


balancing authorities (electric grid)- they provide a reliable open-access power transmission service by keeping supply and demand balanced and scheduled More than Smart, 16

balancing power

the power to balance out stochastically available electrical generation resources (e.g. wind) with resources that can be moderated (e.g. hydro)


Building applied photovoltaic IFC


best available technology


Building integrated photovoltaic IFC

big five extinction

There have been five major losses in species diversity throughout known natural history. These are known as the big five.


a fuel derived from living matter


The urge to affiliate with other forms of life Louv, 39


the type of oil extracted from the Alberta Tar Sands

black start

the process of starting an electric grid section or power station without relying on an external transmission network– often, small generators (BSDG) start larger generators to start main power station generators. The challenge is that large power generation plants require some base electricity in order to begin operation. Hydroelectric plants are relatively easy to black start because you just need enough energy to open intake gates and excite the turbine generators




Balance of Plant

Brent crude

benchmark price for oil wiki


the amount of sugar present in a fruit or vegetable

broadcast irrigation

flooding the land or using sprinklers to distribute water over a large area (as opposed to more focused and efficient drip irrigation) Diamond, 401


a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination


black start diesel generator


best system of emission reduction


a system of electrical conductors in a generating or receiving station on which power is concentrated for distribution


Clean Air Act


Compressed air energy storage


Clean Air Interstate Rule (2005): cap & trade for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the United States. Replaced by the CSAPR.


the California ISO (Independent System Operator, regional energy market oversight entity)


organisms that build shells or external skeletons, or for plants, internal scaffolding built from calcium carbonate

capacity factor

The ratio of a power plant's actual output to its theoretical potential output at full capacity – accounting for downtime and other inefficiencies.

capacity market

also called a forward market, a direct investment by grid operators into power plants ahead of their production, intended to improve long-term price signaling James


California Air Resource Board

carbon cycle

Seasonal cycling of carbon dioxide around the earth, which fluctuates annually between lows in the summer and highs in the winter. Plants and other photosynthesizing organisms consume carbon dioxide in the summer. When the plants die in the fall and cease to photosynthesize, the plants are eaten by bacteria, fungi, and animals, which exhale carbon dioxide. Most of the vegetation on the planet is in the Northern Hemisphere, so the Earth's carbon cycle follows Northern Hemisphere seasons.

carbon engineering

Geoengineering to pull carbon out of the atmosphere


combined cycle gas turbine: both steam and gas turbines used in combination


Coal Combustion Residual Rule concerns the disposal of coal ash, a waste product of coal power plants


Carbon capture and sequestration, sorting CO2 out of exhaust at its source


Chicago Climate Exchange


Clean Development Mechanism, a flexible mechanism for carbon markets under the Kyoto Protocol IFC


a photovoltaic composed of cadmium and telluride, notable as a thin, flexible PV


Central Energy Regulatory Commission


computational fluid dynamics


combined heat and power, also called cogeneration: combined production of useful heat and electric or mechanical power. Also applies to useful cooling. Essentially, requires power generation to occur near the point of consumption so that the thermal effects can also be used. Often works in commercial-scale buildings using natural gas microturbines


a photovoltaic composed of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium, notable as a thin, flexible PV


also called methane hydrate, a form of natural gas that is highly hydrated and found in deep sea formations [Muller, 98]

clearing price

in an electrical energy market, generators bid in costs per MWh, theoretically at operating costs. Power (or demand reduction) is then purchased in order of cheapest to most expensive bids until all demand is met, at the "clearing price", or the price of the most expensive electricity needed to meet demand (so, even the cheaper bidders get paid at the clearing price)

consumer's surplus

(net consumer's surplus): in economics, the difference between the total value the consumer attaches to a given purchase, minus the cost of the purchase

consumptive withdrawal

a resource removed from its source and not returned, e.g. water taken from streams that evaporates & moves elsewhere or is used as part of a crop or product Meadows, 69

coral bleaching

corals turning white through ejection of their colorful zooxanthellae due to the zooxanthellae's dangerous release of oxygen radicals when ocean waters grow too warm

cellulosic ethanol

a form of ethanol that can be made from any woody material, such as walnut hulls and lumber waste

Ceto device

a fully underwater point absorber where the pumping of the floating part pressurizes water for onshore generation


chlorofluorocarbons, also called halocarbons, contain fluorine, bromine, and chlorine. They are harmful to the earth's ozone and notably present in Freon Clark


compressed natural gas


Carbon dioxide


Carbon dioxide equivalent, "the total climate change impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by an item or activity rolled into one and expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact" Berners-Lee, 2

coal gas

fuel gas harvested from seams of coal burning underground Muller, 232


a watertight enclosure pumped dry to permit construction below the waterline

contract path billing

in wheeling (selling of power), the cost for the transmission infrastructure is usually derived from the annualized cost of a specific power line, despite the physical innacuracy of this concept caused by loop flow

control area

a conceptually "pooled" utility area in which there are enough generators to follow load and control the frequency and tie-line exchanges of the system Graves, 3-17


The 2009 Climate Change Convention of the Parties in Copenhagen


21st session of the Congress of Parties (UNFCCC) in 2014. Paris.

Copenhagen Accord

2009 agreement from world leaders to pledge specific actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.


Clean Power Plan, a 2015 federal initiative in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. EPA factsheet:


Cross State Air Pollution Rule requires states to reduce power plant emissions that leave air pollution/particulate in other states (2011)


crystalline silicon


concentrating solar power, whereby thermal power from sunlight is reflected onto a collector Doris, 12


coal to liquid (a synthetic fuel/synfuel) wiki


contingent valuation methodology: a standard non-market valuation technique for renewable energy technology, based in economic theory and survey methodology specifically asking willingness to pay Polis


Clean Water Act


the allowable error range around a frequency before a governor kicks on to adjust the system back to its set frequency

deadweight loss

in economics, the total loss from the global welfare due to regulation of the market

declining block rates

The more you buy, the cheaper the price per unit

decoupling plus

a policy designed to incentivize utilities to promote energy efficiency whereby hitting specific per capita energy use decreases is tied to utilities' right to raise rates

demand response

the electric grid needs to be maintained in a specific frequency band. This band is determined by the balance of electricity supply vs. demand. When supply is lower than demand, the frequency drops. Demand response is typically a coordinated lowering of demand to balance with supply. See also: frequency control


distributed energy resources


distributed energy resource provider


distributed generation (of power)

direct emissions

emissions caused by e.g. the manufacturing and transport of an item


distribution company, a company that owns and operates electrical distribution networks

distributed generation

local production of power, e.g. solar panels on the roofs of buildings that use the power generated for their own energy needs but can also feed back excess/draw from the grid

diurnal tides

tides with one high and one low per day


Department of Energy (U.S.A.)


Department of the Interior (U.S.A.)


Dynamic programming: methods such as optimization which can be used to model tradeoffs in a complex system


Demand Response Auction Mechanism, a more open energy supply bidding process than currently employed by Western U.S. utilities


in a generator, the responsiveness to frequency change (so, the size of the deadband)

droop control

a mechanism for speed control of a primary power generator such that it runs at the same frequency as all of the other generators on the grid. It adjusts mechanical torque of generator mechanisms based on frequency, which takes 3-10 seconds in most systems Hiskens, 26


demand-side management


(electric) distribution service operator


emission control area

ecological footprint

the land area required to provide the resources for and absorb the emissions from global society Meadows, xiv


German Renewable Energy Sources Act, which created feed-in tariffs for solar and wind


energy efficiency portfolio standard: legislated energy use reduction. "mandatory, sets long-term reduction targets (at least three years), is sufficiently funded to allow covered entities to meet their targets, uses financial incentives or nonperformance penalties, and usually (but not always) increases over time" EIA, 42


energy efficiency resource standard: legislated energy use reduction. See EEPS EIA, 42


Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines


electric generating unit


enhanced geothermal energy systems


European Marine Energy Center: a marine power generation research facility located in Orkney, Scotland. The center was created to offer marine-based renewable energy technology developers the opportunity to test full-scale, grid-connected devices O Rourke, 9


electromotive force


electricity market model EIA, 57

energy descent action plan

a collectively designed blueprint for a community (transition town) to lower its emissions and cease to use fossil fuels

energy poverty

Low availability of energy Friedman, 155

energy sprawl

occupation of vast extra-urban tracts of land by energy facilities, problematic for (a) destroying wildlife habitats/fragmenting landscapes and (b) requiring transmission infrastructure across long distances Bronin, 222


thermally and mechanically stressing aquatic organisms to create clean water EIA, 31


European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, the international organization for grid reliability in Europe


enhanced oil recovery: steam heat to reduce the viscosity of the oil, then pump in oxygen to burn in situ Muller, 234


Energy Policy Act of 2005 increased ITC EIA, 33


European Photovoltaic Industry Association


Electric Power Research Institute

equity reference framework

Applied egalitarian principle that seeks to address historical, current, and potential inequities


Equity reference Framework


energy return on energy invested Murphy


Emissions Trading System


European Union Emissions Trading System (carbon market)


estimated ultimate recovery (for oil/natural gas wells) Investopedia

excitation current

current supplied to a conductor wrapped around a conductive core to create a magnetic field

exhaust gas recirculation

NOx reduction technique where exhaust gas is sent back to the engine to reduce the availability of O2 and thus lower the combustion temperatures – since NOx is produced at high temperatures wiki


feed conversion ratio: in agriculture and aquaculture, the ratio of feed consumed versus pound of weight gained


raw material to supply an industrial process


Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (U.S.A.) (


see flowgate rights


fault induced delayed voltage recovery: a temporary dip in voltage causes a power supply stall Hiskens, 24

Fischer-Tropsch process

also called the Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis or F-T. A set of chemical reactions that produces synfuel from a combination of carbon dioxide gas and hydrogen gas wiki


feed-in tariffs, a long-term guaranteed incentive to resource owners based on the enegy produced (in kWh) and not based on demand EPRI, 12

fixed losses

in power transmission, fixed losses (also called no-load losses, shunt losses, or iron losses) are caused by eddy effects and hysteresis in the iron core of transformers and the corona effect of transmission lines. They are proportional to the square of the voltage (and independent from power flow). Because voltage is relatively constant, fixed losses are often treated as constant Kirschen, 176

flowgate rights

like FTRs except attached to a branch in a network instead of just between two adjacent nodes. The value is tied not to the price difference between nodes but to the Lagrange multiplier associated with the maximum capacity of the flowgate– so, these rights have value only in congested branches Kirschen, 198

forward contract

a forward contract specifies for a future transaction: quantity and quality of goods, delivery date, payment amount and type, payment date, and any penalties for failure to uphold the agreement

forward market

a market where the transaction is agreed upon in a contract ("forward contract") in advance of delivery or payment


Hydraulic fracturing, a high-pressure injection of a liquid into a wellbore to create cracks in deep-rock formations to access otherwise hard-to-reach natural gas and petroleum

frequency control

(also known as frequency regulation) on the grid, when power generation is greater than demand, the power frequency rises. Because it is important to maintain a standard frequency, frequency control is any way to discharge excess energy and keep the load and generation in balance. See also: demand response

frequency regulation

(also known as frequency control) on the grid, when power generation is greater than demand, the power frequency rises. Because it is important to maintain a standard frequency, frequency control is any way to discharge excess energy and keep the load and generation in balance. See also: demand response


see Fischer-Tropsch process


financial transmission rights, a contract defined between any two nodes in a power transmission network entitling holders to a revenue equal to the product of the amount of transmission rights purchased and the price differential between the two nodes. They serve as a hedge against congestion in the transmission network, creating a market incentive to equalize nodes Kirschen, 194

fuel cell

a battery wherein you "recharge" by pumping in new chemicals. E.g. a hydrogen fuel cell requires new hydrogen + air Muller, 177

futures market

a market in which standardized forward contracts are bid upon, not necessarily by buyers and sellers of the product, predicting the forward markets from volatility by spreading out the risk

gas flaring

when oil is extracted, natural gas builds up. "Flaring" this gas is setting it on fire (instead of capturing it for sale).

gate closure

in economics, the time at which bidding into the market stops and a clearing price is decided


ground cover ratio


generating company, a company that produces and sells electrical energy


deliberate human intervention in the earth's climate on a global scale

geothermal reservoir

the underground fracture network in rock in areas of high temperature gradient where geothermal energy can be harvested


greenhouse gas

Gibrat ratio

the length of a tidal barrage in meters compared to its output in kWh/year. An economic term where a smaller ratio implies a preferable cost ratio Klossner, 36


gas-insulated lines (for transmission of electricity)

global welfare

in economics, the sum of net consumer's surplus and producer's profit, quantifying the total benefit produced by trading


in a load-following generator, the device which changes energy input to the prime mover to maintain frequency


land not previously used for industry (as opposed to brownfields)

greenhouse gases

atmospheric gases which are transparent to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, but impermeable to infrared (such as the warmth rising from the earth). Carbon dioxide is such a gas.

green manures

quick-growing plants that help prevent erosion and replace nutrients in soil

Green Revolution

from 1950-1992, a movement to increase food production without bringing more land under cultivation. Related to the work of Norman Borlaug and spread of monocultures.


gas to liquid, a form of synfuel where natural gas is converted into an oil substitute wiki


Global Warming Potential, a metric developed by the EPA to compare the warming potentials of various greenhouse gases EPA-GWP

head differential

the difference in heights between the hydrostatic head of a tidal barrage and the water outside the sluice gates


heavy-duty vehicles, 8.5k+ lbs GVWR

helical turbine

a vertical turbine whose blades are modeled after birds' wings

Henry Hub

pricing point for natural gas futures contracts wiki


hydrocarbon gas liquids: produced from unrefined natural gas, they have high energy density and sit on the gas/liquid boundary EIA factsheet on HGL


high voltage DC power

hybrid parks

co-located farms for multiple renewable energy types, esp. wind and solar


microphones that detect sound waves under water

hydrostatic head

a stable level from which water has to fall before the point where power is generated


International Commission on Radiological Protection


International Energy Agency


trapping of aquatic organisms against water intake structures EIA, 31

indirect emissions

Emissions caused by e.g. the process to extract the materials used in creating an item or activity


planting two or more crops interspersed to maximize light, water, and nutrient usage

intertidal zone

land area that is exposed when the tide is not high

intertrip scheme

a grid network security service designed to mitigate transient stability problems by automatically disconnecting either generation or load in the event of a fault Kirschen, 117

inverted rates

The more you buy, the more it costs per unit


investor owned utility, as opposed to publicly owned


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a UN organization)


independent power producer, a power generating company (term usually used when in coexistence with a vertically integrated utility company, as distinguished from utility-owned generation)


integrated resource planning Trabish


Independent System Operator for grid energy market (sometimes interchangeable with RTO)- a regional energy market oversight entity which exists to facilitate competition among wholesale energy companies, schedule and monitor transmission for non-discriminatory access, ensure reliability of the grid, manage the interconnection of new resources, guard against market manipulation, and create transparency into the system. Caspary, 2 The ISO typically owns any computing and communication assets required to monitor and control the system and has the ultimate goal of creating security in the grid Kirschen, 3


Investment Tax Credit: OR independent transmission company, a company that owns electrical transmission assets but not generation capacity


Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act (2005), the most significant law in effect relating to energy on tribal lands (as of 2013) Bronin, 222


Joint Implementation, a flexible mechanism for carbon markets under the Kyoto Protocol


Kirchhoff's Current Law (see also: Kirchhoff's Laws)

Keeling's curve

The mapping of background carbon concentrations on Mauna Loa which by 1962 showed that ~half the CO2 from fossil fuel burning was accumulating in the air.


impure oil-rich gunk that can be extracted from shale to make shale oil

Kirchhoff's Laws

Two equalities describing current and voltage in lumped models of electrical circuits. (1) Node rule (KCL): Conservation of electric charge. The sum of current flowing into a node is equal to the sum of current flowing out of that node. (2) Loop rule (KVL): The sum of directional electric voltage around a closed loop is zero– or, the sum of voltage drops must be equal to the sum of the applied EMF. Wiki. Because electrical transmission follows these physical laws, it is difficult to accurately charge for electrical transmission on the grid in a fair and accurate manner.


Kirchhoff's Voltage Law (see also: Kirchhoff's Laws)


kilowatt hour, the product of the power transmitted in kilowatts and the time in hours

Kyoto Protocol

An international treaty which extends the UNFCCC, committing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Acknowledges 1 premises: (1) global warming exists and (2) man-made CO2 emissions have caused it. Adopted in 1997, more enforced starting 2005.


levelized avoided cost of electricity: LCOE for technologies with different duty cycles EIA, 115


taking place across constant streamlines; not turbulent


life cycle assessment (typically, cradle to grave carbon impact analysis)


levelized cost of electricity: the cost of building and operating a plant per kWh of output. Useful for comparing costs among technologies with similar operating characteristics– see also LACE (for varied duty cycles). Can vary significantly by region for renewables (e.g. solar in Seattle vs. San Diego) EIA, 115


Latitudinal diversity gradient: the pattern that there is greater species diversity the farther away you get from the poles


Light-duty vehicle, i.e. passenger vehicles and some ~van-sized commercial vehicles

learning curve

Economies of scale combined with improvements in technology and lessons learned as a technology rolls out Naam


landfill gas


liquid metal fast breeder nuclear reactors


locational marginal price (of energy), typically low at off-peak usage times Fitzgerald, 15


locational net benefit analysis, an effort by California to value distributed energy resources based on their location on the grid Trabish


liquid natural gas

load following

moderation of generator electricity production to match energy load, or demand

locational marginal pricing

the marginal cost of energy production, taking into account the cost of transmission (where the energy is produced or consumed)– nodal pricing is a subset where a price is defined at each node or bus in the system Kirschen, 153

loop flow

the fact that power flows over all available paths between supply and load, despite specifications in a given power transfer contract Graves, 1-3


long-run average cost


long run avoided costs


long-run marginal cost


load serving entities: energy suppliers


having tides larger than 4m


International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships EIA, 45


Mercury Air Toxics Standard (currently in effect) requires that all coal plants control emissions of SO2, mercury, and acid gases. Can remove 70-90% of SO2 emissions from coal plants EIA, 116


medium-duty vehicles, 8.5k lbs-10k lbs GVWR


marine gas oil: fuel oil made from distillate only- wiki:


marine hydro-kinetic


having tides smaller than 2m


0.1 rem of radiation


market operator, in the electrical grid, the entity that matches the bids and offers of buyers and sellers of electricity and settles payments. ISO is a MO


model predictive control, a grid power scheduling system whereby a model of the system's demands is used to schedule the running of generators so that the power is present in the system before it is required


Municipal solid waste: turning regular garbage into energy through various technologies such as landfill gas capture, combustion, pyrolysis, gasification [Wikipedia][]

multijunction cells

a type of photovoltaic that is layered to react with every wavelength of light. It is extremely efficient and extremely expensive, used in the Mars rover and with utility-scale CSP PV plants

must-run plants

critically located electrical generation plants whose failure to operate can compromise the security of the grid through long transmission lines or create transmission bottlenecks


a streamlined housing or tank for something on the outside of an aircraft or motor vehicle


National Action Plan on Climate Change


National Academy of Sciences

natural monopoly

a monopoly found in an industry that has a minimum efficient size comparable to the demand and therefore is typically regulated. A natural monopoly often arises when there are large fixed costs and relatively small variable costs Kirschen, 43


Non-conventional renewable energy


Net Energy Metering


National Energy Modeling System


National Environmental Policy Act: requires any federal actions with significant impact on the human environment to undergo a thorough environmental analysis. Notoriously expensive & long, does not actually require action to be taken based on the report


North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit international regulatory agency (

net power injection

at a node in a power transmission system, an integer representing the flow of power through the bus (positive if local production exceeds demand) Kirschen, 182

net surplus

also called producer's profit, an economics term for the ability of a producer to sell a product for more than the opportunity cost

New Pangaea

A term used to refer to the ecological globalization/homogenization of the world through the spreading of non-native species via human activities


natural gas


natural gas plant liquids, recovered from processing, e.g. propane


natural gas vehicle


National Ignition Facility, a laser facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory website


Not in my backyard. As in "yes high voltage power transmission is a great idea, but not in my backyard"

nodal pricing

in electricity generation, a form of locational marginal pricing where price is defined at each node or bus of an interconnected system Kirschen, 153

non-spinning reserve

also called supplemental reserve. Generating capacity which is capable of being brought online within 10 minutes if it is offline, or interrupted within 10 minutes if it is online, and which is capable of either being operated or interrupted for at least two hours

nontechnical losses

energy that is stolen from a power transmission system Kirschen, 176


nitrogen oxide, typically nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant in emissions that is harmful to humans- wiki:


National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System


National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DoE R&D lab)


new source performance standard, a regulatory emissions standard on new power plants

nuclear battery

a small, modular, no-maintenance nuclear plant- often manufactured remotely, shipped, assembled on site, and buried for 3-4 years at a time while in operation Muller, 186


non-utility generator

ocean acidification

the reduction of alkalinity in the world's oceans through absorption of human-produced carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels of 8.2 to a projected 7.8 by 2100

ocean conveyor

Circulation of the ocean. They move underwater (brought down through sea chimneys) south of Africa, around Antarctica, through the Indian and Pacific Oceans, then come back up at the Atlantic to join the Gulf Stream and move north again to the sea chimney there. More precisely known as the meridional overturning circulation or the thermohaline circulation Pearce, 142


organization for economic cooperation and development, a forum of 34 countries working together on development and policy issues OECD mission


original equipment manufacturer

oil trap

a geologic structure which holds underground oil


organization of the petroleum exporting countries


optimum power flow, models to simulate power dispatch from various generators through various transmission lines– used by some utilities every half hour; others not at all due to high computational intensity Graves, 1-5


ocean thermal energy conversion, also called thalassothermal energy


the material that lies above an area suitable for economic exploitation (e.g. soil, plants above a potential mine)


oscillating water column: a vertical chamber drilled into a cliff where waves push aboveground air up the tube through a turbine


photosynthetically active radiation

Pareto efficiency

in economics, a system is Pareto efficient if benefit to one side (producer or consumer) can only be increased by reducing the benefit to another party


primary energy: energy contained in raw fuels, or otherwise received as input to a system. Use of this metric ignores conversion efficiency (from its potential energy to the amount we can actually harvest), so it leads to imperfect comparisons - for example, nuclear, coal, and other thermal electricity generation processes are highly inefficient and can be overvalued using this metric wiki

peak oil

the point in time when the maximum extraction of oil is reached (based on a theory by M. King Hubbert, a Shell researcher). Based on the incorrect belief that resource extraction curves fit a bell curve, “peak oil’ is the idea that we will run out of oil to extract and then our industry will drop precipitously, returning us to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle within a few thousand years Smil, 62-64


Proton Exchange Membrane, a type of fuel cell with low efficiency (50%) and low (50-80C) operating temperature typically used in the transportation sector

People's Recovery

The use of destruction from catastrophic events as an opportunity to rebuild with equity in mind

petrochemical cracker

a plant designed to convert ethane, propane, and normal butane, as well as naphtha, to ethylene, propylene, and other building blocks of the petrochemical industry EIA, 86


pH is a logarithmic scale from 0 to 14, where 7 is neutral, higher is basic (alkaline), and lower is acidic

phase angle

the difference in phases between the (same-frequency) waveforms of voltage and current in a circuit

phase voltage

voltage as measured between one phase and the neutral point, the voltage at an element of a wye configuration of generators

phase-to-phase voltage

voltage as measured between two phases, the voltage at an element in a delta configuration of generations

physical transmission rights

in a grid electrical system, the right to transmit a certain amount of power, for a certain time, through a certain branch of the transmission network Kirschen, 147


chemical compounds that are the building blocks of taste, such as amino acids, esters, and flavinoids. Also part of plant immune systems.

Pinatubo Option

shorthand name for albedo engineering


pricing node (in electric grid balancing). P-nodes, PNodes, or pricing nodes, are a pricing structure for distributed energy resources. Essentially, a price is set by balancing the supply and demand at each point where two wires cross. As of 2015, there were 4,900 of these in California. StJohn

point absorber

wave harvesting device based on a floating part and a fixed part where the floating part's vertical motion is converted into electricity (e.g. a buoy bobbing a copper coil over magnets)


publicly owned utility (as opposed to investor owned)

power-system stabilizer

a mechanism often provided as a grid ancillary service which damps oscillations in power to prevent their spread through the network


Parts per million


power purchase price

precautionary principle

the idea that when there is uncertainty, you should err on the side of safety

prime mover

a machine or part of a machine that converts energy from a source energy into mechanical energy, e.g. a steam turbine or water wheel


Production Tax Credit, a federal tax credit in the United States which provides inflation-adjusted per-kWH rebates for qualifying renewable energy sales


per unit


Public Utility Commission, state entity regulating utility companies


Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act: requires utilities to purchase the output of certain types of generation facilities if it matches the cost of other system resources



PV plant design

consists of site-specific requirements and restraints, type of PV module to use, tilting angle, inverters, mounting and tracking apparatus, and arrangement of cells. Optimization takes into account shade, performance degradation over time, and tradeoffs of energy yield vs. spend for improved equipment. IFC, 5


present value of revenue requirements


Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle: low-emission conventional internal combustion vehicles with extended emissions system warranties EIA, 35

radiation illness

immediate sickness from exposure to 100 rem or more of radiation, resulting in nausea, loss of hair, and weakness


Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (equations)

reactive power

temporarily stored power used to maintain voltage at a constant level, measured in VARs, contrast with real power

reactivity incident

in nuclear physics, if something goes wrong in neutron moderation and a chain reaction begins to build up

real power

the power available for performing useful work, measured in Watts, in contrast to reactive power

rebound effect

e.g. a low-carbon technology is more convenient than a high-carbon technology, so we use it more, and end up using more carbon than previously Berners-Lee, 16

recoverable cost

a cost that can be recovered through sale of the asset, e.g. the land on which a generator plant is built


a tool to measure Brix - looks like a small spyglass


Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement


the unit measure of radiation exposure


shifting off-peak generation to on-peak energy demand times


a method of shale oil extraction. In this method, you mine shale, heat it aboveground to let kerogen leak out, and then refine the kerogen into oil. The process leaves a lot of leftover shale rock Muller, 109

reversible fuel cell

electricity is used for hydrogen production; hydrogen is stored in a fuel cell and converted back into electrical energy

Reynolds number

a dimensionless quantity in fluid mechanics used to predict flow patterns. It is used to predict the transition from laminar/smooth flow (low Reynolds number– viscous forces are dominant) to turbulent flow (high Reynolds numbers– inertial forces are dominant). wiki


Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (New England), the first mandatory, regulated carbon market in the United States Wiki

rip tide

turbulent water from the opposition of tidal current to prevailing current


Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability research and education foundation


the part that turns– in a generator, a rotor (typically producing a magnetic field) turns around a stator


Renewable purchase obligation


Renewable Portfolio Standards, regulation requiring renewables in an energy portfolio


Regional Transmission Organization, a regional energy market oversight entity which exists to facilitate competition among wholesale energy companies, schedule and monitor transmission for non-discriminatory access, ensure reliability of the grid, manage the interconnection of new resources, guard against market manipulation, and create transparency into the system. Term can be interchangeable with ISO. Caspary, 2


Hydropower which uses natural flow and elevation drop of water rather than a dam


Salt accumulation in soil and groundwater, which interferes with the ability for plants to grow Diamond, 35

saline seep

Salty water which builds up in an uphill area travels through the soil and comes out downhill and distant. Diamond, 36


Supervisory control and data acquisition

sea chimneys

Giant whirlpools found at the ends of ocean currents. They take surface water and drain them down to the bottom of the ocean. This is a major component of global ocean circulation.

selective catalytic reduction

chemical reaction catalyzed by injection into exhaust which turns NOx into nitrogen, water, and tiny amounts of CO2, can reduce NOx up to 90% (


two each of high and low tides per day


State Electricity Regulatory Commission


a device which allows electric current to pass around another point in a circuit by creating a low-resistance path


having one voltage waveform

sluice gates

movable gates that allow or impede the flow of water e.g. to let water into the hydrostatic head of a tidal barrage


switched-mode power suppliers (AC/DC)


sensitive electronic equipment that finds hydrocarbons in air, used in oil deposit discovery


environmental aspects with significant social ramifications, e.g. culturally significant species mctiernan


Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, a type of fuel cell with high (70%) efficiency and high (600-1000C) operating temperature typically used for stationary applications

solar energy resource

Depends on solar irradiation of the geographic area and also on local shade


sulful oxides, a pollutant present in exhaust which causes acid rain- wiki:

speed droop

a speed control mode in a system of generators which allows them to run in parallel, sharing loads across generators proportional to their power rating

spinning reserve

any back-up energy production capacity which is can be made available to a transmission system with ten minutes' notice and can operate continuously for at least two hours once it is brought online

spot market

a market where goods are delivered immediately and the buyer pays in full on the spot, with no conditions attached to the transaction


Stream Protection Rule: proposed rule affects surface mining operations and underground mining operations that affect the surface EIA, 32


short-run average cost


solar radiation management (albedo engineering)


short-run marginal cost

station backup failure

failure of an electricity generation station due to loss of electricity


the part of an assembly that holds still– in the case of a generator, typically the stator contains windings of a conductor in which AC current is excited by the motion of the magnetic field in a moving rotor


in electrical transformers, the process of transforming electrical power so that it has lower voltage and higher current, typically performed at substations for distribution to end users


in electrical transformers, the process of transforming electrical power so that it has higher voltage and lower current, typically for the purpose of transmitting the electrical energy over long distances with minimal power loss

synchronous generator

An electrical generator of AC power which is synchronized with a standard frequency


synthetic fuel; fuel (liquid hydrocarbons such as gasoline or kerosene) produced from coal, natural gas, or biomass into synthetic crude or other liquid fuel

system upgrade deferral

allocation of off-peak energy (e.g. through battery storage) to times when new capacity would otherwise have to be added to meet demand Fitzgerald, 15


transmission to distribution


considerations where technical options are constrained by economics McTiernan


tribal energy resource agreement, which occurs between a tribe and the Secretary of the Interior. Required for natives to get rights of self-determination from ITEDSA, absolves the federal government of any losses occurring from the energy project decisions


in an electric power system, having at least three conductors carrying AC voltages that are offset in time by 1/3 the period, the most common type of generator in the electrical grid

thumper truck

a vehicle used for seismology-based oil discovery which slams heavy plates into the ground to produce shock waves Freudenrich

tidal barrage

a tidal power generator that is essentially a hydroelectric dam: open for inflow, close & run generator on outflow (possible to generate power in both directions) Maehlum

tidal farm

see tidal fence

tidal fence

a row of tidal stream generator turbines cemented in place so that all flow must pass through the turbines. Can be implemented fully or partially across a tidal flow Helston

tidal range

the height difference between high tide and low tide

tidal stream generator

underwater turbines for tidal power

tide race

a tidal stream that flows very rapidly where passage is constricted


electrical line which connects two neighboring areas (usually there are many tie-lines)

tipping point

in the context of climate change, a singular event (typically triggered by global warming) which rapidly accelerates global warming


time of use, a utility power billing scheme to correlate the price of electricity with its supply/demand economics (electricity is more expensive at times of day with historically high demand)


total primary energy supply, the sum of production and imports minus exports and storage charges. See PE for more information wiki


transmission company

transition costs

in electrical power generation, the cost to start up and shut down a power generation station, generally very significant in thermally-based power plants

Transition town

a grassroots community movement to reduce local dependence on oil and other high-emitting energy sources

tropic tides

tides at low latitudes, characterized by high amplitude and high range


transmission system operator

Type I

A type of climate change which is gradual, following IPCC graphs

Type II

A type of climate change that is abrupt and results from the crossing of tipping points


transitional zero-emissions vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric and hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicles EIA, 22, 35


1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

unit commitment

planning regarding which generating units should be on during a given day to meet load forecast


an extra cost, usually about 10% of the power purchase price, added to the power purchase price to account for extra operating costs (out-of-merit dispatch, standby, and reactive power) related to market inefficiencies resulting from a day-ahead power purchase market in the United Kingdom Graves, 1-2

variable losses

variable losses in power transmission (also called load losses, series losses, copper losses, or transport-related losses) are caused by current flowing through the lines, cables, and transformers of a network. This loss can be approximated as a quadratic of the active power flow (proportional to power squared) Kirschen, 175-176


volt-amps reactive, a measure of reactive power


value of lost load, the average price per megawatt-hour that consumers would be willing to pay to avoid being disconnected without notice Kirschen, 74

voltage collapse

power demand exceeds supply so much that the system goes down (any given power supply has a finite supply capability, a "point of maximum loadability") Hiskens, 21


wave energy converter


the practice of shipping power between a buyer and a seller over third-party transmission lines Graves, 1-3


zero-emissions vehicles: battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell EIA, 22, 35

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