Acid Rain: Also called “acid precipitation” or “acid deposition,” acid rain is precipitation containing harmful amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids formed primarily by nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned. It can be wet precipitation (rain, snow, or fog) or dry precipitation (absorbed gaseous and particulate matter, aerosol particles, or dust). Acid rain has a pH below 5.6. Normal rain has a pH of about 5.6, which is slightly acidic. (The pH value is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, ranging from 0 to 14. A pH measurement of 7 is regarded as neutral. Measurements below 7 indicate increased acidity, and those above 7 indicate increased alkalinity.)

Alternating Current: An electric current that reverses its direction at regularly recurring intervals, usually 50 or 60 times per second.

Amorphous Silicon: An alloy of silica and hydrogen, with a disordered, noncrystalline internal atomic arrangement, that can be deposited in thin-layers (a few micrometers in thickness) by a number of deposition methods to produce thin-film photovoltaic cells on glass, metal, or plastic substrates.

Annualized Growth Rates: Calculated as follows: (xn / x1) 1/n , where x is the value under consideration and n is the number of periods.

Aquifer: A subsurface rock unit from which water can be produced.

Availability Factor: A percentage representing the number of hours a generating unit is available to produce power (regardless of the amount of power) in a given period, compared to the number of hours in the period.

Avoided Costs: The incremental costs of energy and/or capacity, except for the purchase from a qualifying facility, a utility would incur itself in the generation of the energy or its purchase from another source.

Baghouse: A woven or felted fabric bag-like device that lets gas through but removes suspended particles.

Biomass:Organic nonfossil material of biological origin constituting a renewable energy source.

Biota: The flora and fauna of a region.

Black Liquor: A byproduct of the paper production process that can be used as a source of energy.

Bleached Board: A wood product used for printed and graphically enhanced card stock, books, and packaging such as food cartons, microwave trays, beverages, candy, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and consumer electronic items. Pollutants, such as dioxins and furans, can result from processes that use chlorine in the manufacture of bleached board.

Brine: A highly saline solution. A solution containing appreciable amounts of sodium chloride and other salts.

Busbar Cost: The cost per kilowatthour to produce electricity, including the cost of capital, debt service, operation and maintenance, and fuel. The power plant “bus” or “busbar” is that point beyond the generator but prior to the voltage transformation point in the plant switchyard.

Capacity Factor: The ratio of the electrical energy produced by a generating unit for the period of time considered to the electrical energy that could have been produced at continuous full-power operation during the same period.

Capacity, Gross: The full-load continuous rating of a generator, prime mover, or other electric equipment under specified conditions as designated by the manufacturer. It is usually indicated on a nameplate attached to the equipment.

Capital Cost: The cost of field development and plant construction and the equipment required for the generation of electricity.

Cast Silicon: Crystalline silicon obtained by pouring pure molten silicon into a vertical mold and adjusting the temperature gradient along the mold volume during cooling to obtain slow, vertically-advancing crystallization of the silicon. The polycrystalline ingot thus formed is composed of large, relatively parallel, interlocking crystals. The cast ingots are sawed into wafers for further fabrication into photovoltaic cells. Cast-silicon wafers and ribbon-silicon sheets fabricated into cells are usually referred to as polycrystalline photovoltaic cells.

Climate Change (Greenhouse Effect): The increasing mean global surface temperature of the Earth caused by gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons). The greenhouse effect allows solar radiation to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere but absorbs the infrared radiation returning to space.

Cogeneration: The production of electrical energy and another form of useful energy (such as heat or steam) through the sequential use of energy.

Combined Cycle: An electric generating technology in which electricity is produced from otherwise lost waste heat exiting from one or more gas (combustion) turbines. The exiting heat is routed to a conventional boiler or to a heat recovery steam generator for utilization by a steam turbine in the production of electricity. Such designs increase the efficiency of the electric generating unit.

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.

Convection: Motion in a fluid or plastic material due to some parts being buoyant because of their higher temperature. Convection is a means of transferring heat through mass flow rather than through simple thermal conduction.

Cull Wood: Wood logs, chips, or wood products that are burned.

Dioxins: A classification of chlorine-containing compounds that are considered extremely toxic carcinogenic agents. Toxic effects include anorexia, hepatotoxicity, chloracne, vascular lesions, and gastric ulcers. Dioxins are byproducts in the manufacture of some chemicals. Causes of dioxin production in combustion begin with chlorine compounds in fuel, inadequate supply of combustion air, too low refractory temperatures, and improper mixing of fuel and air.

Direct Current: An electric current that flows in a constant direction. The magnitude of the current does not vary or has a slight variation.

Electric Utility Restructuring: With some notable exceptions, the electric power industry historically has been composed primarily of investor-owned utilities. These utilities have been predominantly vertically integrated monopolies (combining electricity generation, transmission, and distribution), whose prices have been regulated by State and Federal government agencies. Restructuring the industry entails the introduction of competition into at least the generation phase of electricity production, with a corresponding decrease in regulatory control. Restructuring may also modify or eliminate other traditional aspects of investor-owned utilities, including their exclusive franchise to serve a given geographical area, assured rates of return, and vertical integration of the production process.

Electrostatic Precipitator: A number of vertical, parallel metal plates utilizing the mutual attraction of opposite electric charges to remove dust or ash particles or liquid droplets suspended in a gas.

Emission: The release or discharge of a substance into the environment; generally refers to the release of gases or particulates into the air.

Emissions Trading: With an emissions trading system, a regulatory agency specifies an overall level of pollution that will be tolerated (a cap) and then uses allowances to develop a market to allocate the pollution among sources of pollution under the cap. Emissions permits or allowances become the currency of the market, as pollution sources are free to buy, sell, or otherwise trade permits based on their own marginal costs of control and the price of the permits. In no case can total emissions exceed the cap.

Ethyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (ETBE): A colorless, flammable, oxygenated hydrocarbon ((CH3)3COC2H5) blend stock formed by the catalytic etherification of isobutylene with ethanol.

Evacuated Tube: In a solar thermal collector, an absorber tube, which is contained in an evacuated glass cylinder, through which collector fluids flows.

Exempt Wholesale Generator (EWG): A nonutility electricity generator that is not a qualifying facility under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.

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.

Flat Plate Pumped: A medium-temperature solar thermal collector that typically consists of a metal frame, glazing, absorbers (usually metal), and insulation and that uses a pump liquid as the heat-transfer medium: predominant use is in water heating applications.

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 Cells: One or more cells capable of generating an electrical current by converting the chemical energy of a fuel directly into electrical energy. Fuel cells differ from conventional electrical cells in that the active materials such as fuel and oxygen are not contained within the cell but are supplied from outside.

Fuelwood: Wood and wood products, possibly including coppices, scrubs, branches, etc., bought or gathered, and used by direct combustion.

Fumarole: A vent from which steam or gases issue; a geyser or spring that emits gases.

Furans: A class of organic heterocyclic compounds regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of their toxic characteristics. Among other sources, furans can be produced as a byproduct in some pine tar distillation processes. Some derivatives of furans, such as furfuryl alcohol, tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol, and tetrahydrofuran, are commercially important. Furans can be generated by the same combustion problems described for dioxins.

Generation (Electricity): The process of producing electric energy from other forms of energy; also, the amount of electric energy produced, expressed in watthours (Wh).

Geopressured: A type of geothermal resource occurring in deep basins in which the fluid is under very high pressure.

Geothermal Energy: As used at electric utilities, hot water or steam extracted from geothermal reservoirs in the Earth’s crust that is supplied to steam turbines at electric utilities that drive generators to produce electricity.

Geothermal Plant: A plant in which a turbine is driven either from hot water or by natural steam that derives its energy from heat found in rocks or fluids at various depths beneath the surface of the earth. The fluids are extracted by drilling and/or pumping.

Geyser: A special type of thermal spring that periodically ejects water with great force.

Giga: One billion.

Green Liquor: The raw mill effluent that results from the pulping and/or bleaching process in pulp and paper mills. Black liquor can be recovered from green liquor by evaporation and membrane processing.

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.

Greenhouse Effect: The increasing mean global surface temperature of the Earth caused by gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbon). The greenhouse effect allows solar radiation to penetrate, but absorbs the infrared radiation returning to space.

Grid: The layout of an electrical distribution system.

Groundwater: Water occurring in the subsurface zone where all spaces are filled with water under pressure greater than that of the atmosphere.

High-Temperature Collector: A solar thermal collector designed to operate at a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

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 Heights: 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.

Independent Power Producer (IPP): A wholesale electricity producer (other than a qualifying facility under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978), that is unaffiliated with franchised utilities in the area in which the IPP is selling power and that lacks significant marketing power. Unlike traditional utilities, IPPs do not possess transmission facilities that are essential to their customers and do not sell power in any retail service territory where they have a franchise.

Internal Collector Storage (ICS): A solar thermal collector in which incident solar radiation is absorbed by the storage medium.

Kilowatt (kW): One thousand watts of electricity (See Watt).

Kilowatthour (kWh): One thousand watthours.

Levelized Cost: The present value of the total cost of building and operating a generating plant over its economic life, converted to equal annual payments. Costs are levelized in real dollars (i.e., adjusted to remove the impact of inflation).

Liquid Collector: A medium-temperature solar thermal collector, employed predominantly in water heating, which uses pumped liquid as the heat-transfer medium.

Low-Temperature Collectors: Metallic or nonmetallic solar thermal collectors that generally operate at temperatures below 110 degrees Fahrenheit and use pumped liquid or air as the heat transfer medium. They usually contain no glazing and no insulation,and they are often made of plastic or rubber, although some are made of metal.

Magma: Naturally occurring molten rock, generated within the earth and capable of intrusion and extrusion, from which igneous rocks are thought to have been derived through solidification and related processes. It may or may not contain suspended solids (such as crystals and rock fragments) and/or gas phases.

Marginal Cost: The change in cost associated with a unit change in quantity supplied or produced.

Mass Burner: A relatively large one-chamber combustion system used to incinerate municipal solid waste under conditions of excess air; it is built on site and consumes fuel without prior processing or sorting.

Medium-Temperature Collectors: Solar thermal collectors designed to operate in the temperature range of 140 degrees to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, but that can also operate at a temperature as low as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The collector typically consists of a metal frame, metal absorption panels with integral flow channels (attached tubing for liquid collectors or integral ducting for air collectors), and glazing and insulation on the sides and back.

Megawatt (MW): One million watts of electricity (See Watt).

Merchant Facilities: High-risk, high-profit facilities that operate, at least partially, at the whims of the market, as opposed to those facilities that are constructed with close cooperation of municipalities and have significant amounts of waste supply guaranteed.

Methane: The most common gas formed in coal mines; a major component of natural gas.

Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE): A color- less, flammable, liquid oxygenated hydrocarbon ((CH3)3COCH3) that contains 18.15 percent oxygen and has a boiling point of 55.2 degrees Celsius. It is a fuel oxygenate produced by reacting methanol with isobutylene.

Modular Burner: A relatively small two-chamber combustion system used to incinerate municipal solid waste without prior processing or sorting; usually fabricated at a factory and delivered to the incineration site.

Net Photovoltaic Cell Shipment: The difference between photovoltaic cell shipments and photovoltaic cell purchases.

Net Photovoltaic Module Shipment: The difference between photovoltaic module shipments and photovoltaic module purchases.

Nonutility Generation: Electric generation by end-users, independent power producers, or small power producers under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, to supply electric power for industrial, commercial, and military operations, or sales to electric utilities.

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Cost: Operating expenses are associated with operating a facility (i.e., supervising and engineering expenses). Maintenance expenses are that portion of expenses consisting of labor, materials, and other direct and indirect expenses incurred for preserving the operating efficiency or physical condition of utility plants that are used for power production, transmission, and distribution of energy.

Ozone: Three-atom oxygen compound (O3) found in two layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. One layer of beneficial ozone occurs at 7 to 18 miles above the surface and shields the Earth from ultraviolet light. Several holes in this protective layer have been documented by scientists. Ozone also concentrates at the surface as a result of reactions between byproducts of fossil fuel combustion and sunlight, having harmful health effects.

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.

Particulates: Visible air pollutants consisting of particles appearing in smoke or mist.

Passive Solar: A system in which solar energy alone is used for the transfer of thermal energy. Pumps, blowers, or other heat transfer devices that use energy other than solar are not used.

Peak Watt: A manufacturer’s unit indicating the amount of power a photovoltaic cell or module will produce at standard test conditions (normally 1,000 watts per square meter and 25 degrees Celsius).

Photovoltaic Cell: 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 environment degradation, and suited for incorporation in photovoltaic power systems.

Pollution: Any substances in water, soil, or air that degrade the natural quality of the environment, offend the senses of sight, taste, and smell, and/or cause a health hazard. The usefulness of a natural resource is usually impaired by the presence of pollutants and contaminants.

Private Activity Bond (PAB): A bond in which more than 10 percent of the proceeds are secured by the interest in the property of a private business or used in a nonpublic business. A PAB can still be tax-exempt if used (at least 95 percent) for qualified investments, such as waste-to-energy facilities, and provided that State allocation caps are not exceeded.

Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA): 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 cogenerators and users of renewable resources.

Pulpwood: Roundwood, whole-tree chips, or wood residues.

Pyrolysis: The thermal decomposition of biomass at high temperature in the absence of oxygen.

Quadrillion Btu: Equivalent to 10 to the 15th power Btu.

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 of 1978 (PURPA). (See the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 18, Part 292.)

Reformulated Gasoline (RFG): Gasoline whose composition has been changed (from that of gasolines sold in 1990) to (1) include oxygenates, (2) reduce the content of olefins, aromatics, and volatile components, and (3) reduce the content of heavy hydrocarbons to meet performance specifications for ozone-forming tendency and for release of toxic substances (benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, and polycyclic organic matter) into the air from both evaporation and tailpipe emissions.

Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF): Fuel processed from municipal solid waste that can be in shredded, fluff, or densified pellet forms.

Renewable Energy Source: An energy source that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are wind, geothermal, and water power.

Retail Wheeling: An arrangement in which a utility transmits electricity from outside its service territory to a retail customer within its customer service territory.

Ribbon Silicon: Single-crystal silicon derived by means of fabricating processes that produce sheets or ribbons of single- crystal silicon. These processes include edge-defined film-fed growth, dendritic web growth, and ribbon-to-ribbon growth.

Roundwood: Logs, bolts, and other round timber generated from the harvesting of trees.

Scrubber: An emission control device that adds alkaline reagents to react with and neutralize acid gases.

Silicon: A semiconductor material made from silica, purified for photovoltaic applications.

Single Crystal Silicon (Czochralski): An extremely pure form of crystalline silicon produced by the Czochralski method of dipping a single crystal seed into a pool of molten silicon under high vacuum conditions and slowly withdrawing a solidifying single crystal boule rod of silicon. The boule is sawed into thin wafers and fabricated into single-crystal photovoltaic cells.

Smog: Air pollution associated with oxidants.

Solar Energy: The radiant energy of the sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.

Solar Thermal Collector: A device designed to receive solar radiation and convert it into thermal energy. Normally, a solar thermal collector includes a frame, glazing, and an absorber, together with the appropriate insulation. The heat collected by the solar thermal collector may be used immediately or stored for later use.

Solar Thermal Collector, Special: An evacuated tube collector or a concentrating (focusing) collector. Special collectors operate in the temperature (low concentration for pool heating) to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit (high concentration for air conditioning and specialized industrial processes).

Stoker Boiler: A boiler in which fuel is burned on a grate with the fuel supplied and the ash removed continuously. Most of the steam is used for process heat, with the remainder being used for electricity if desired.

Stranded Investment: Refers to the financial impairment—not necessarily plant closure in the physical sense—when the price of plant output falls to a level at which the owner can no longer earn a sufficient return on investment.

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.

Transmission System (Electric): An interconnected group of electric transmission lines and associated equipment for moving or transferring electric energy in bulk between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery over the distribution system lines to consumers, or is delivered to other electric systems.

Turbine: A machine for generating rotary mechanical power from the energy of a stream of fluid (such as water, steam, or hot gas). Turbines convert the kinetic energy of fluids to mechanical energy through the principles of impulse and reaction, or a mixture of the two.

Vapor-Dominated Geothermal System: A conceptual model of a hydrothermal system where steam pervades the rock and is the pressure-controlling fluid phase.

Watt (Electric): The electrical unit of power. The rate of energy transfer equivalent to 1 ampere of electric current flowing under a pressure of 1 volt at unity power factor.

Watt (Thermal): A unit of power in the metric system, expressed in terms of energy per second, equal to the work done at a rate of 1 joule per second.

Watthour (Wh): The electrical energy unit of measure equal to 1 watt of power supplied to, or taken from, an electric circuit steadily for 1 hour.

Wheeling: The use of the transmission facilities of one system to transmit power and energy by agreement of, and for, another system with a corresponding wheeling charge, e.g., the transmission of electricity for compensation over a system that is received from one system and delivered to another system).

Renewable Energy Annual 1996
April 1997
[Click on any entry to go there.]

Front Matter
1. Renewable Data Overview
2. Biomass Profile: Wood and Ethanol
3. Municipal Solid Waste Profile
4. Geothermal Energy Profile
5. Wind Energy Profile
6. Solar Industry Profile
7. The Role of Electric Utilities in the Photovoltaics Industry
8. Public Policy Affecting the Waste-to-Energy Industry
9. Flow Control and the Interstate Movement of Waste: Post-Carbone
10. Growth of the Landfill Gas Industry
11. Management of Known Geothermal Resource Areas
12. International Renewable Energy
Appendix A. EIA Renewable Energy Data Sources
Appendix B. Renewable Data Limitations
Appendix C. Geothermal Energy and Geysers
Appendix D. Environmental Impacts of Geothermal Energy
Appendix E. Examples of Contract Arrangements at The Geysers
Appendix F. Additional Solar and Photovoltaic Tables
Appendix G. Moody’s Bond Ratings
Appendix H. LFG: Commercial Energy Recovery Case Studies
Appendix I. List of Internet Addresses: Renewable Energy Information by Resource
Appendix J. State Agencies That Provide Energy Information

File last modified: April 16, 1997

Mark Gielecki
Phone: (202) 426-1141
Fax: (202) 426-1280