Renewable Energy Glossary | So Energy

Renewable Energy: A Glossary of Terms

So Energy

Here at So Energy it’s always exciting to see conversations around renewable energy ramping up in the media, in governmental policy, and amongst our customers. As a provider of 100% renewable electricity ourselves, our commitment has always been to enable customers to reduce their environmental impact and move towards a net-zero lifestyle, while aiding the transition away from fossil fuels. 

However we’re also aware that some of the jargon used around renewable energy and green technologies can be quite confusing. With that in mind, here’s our glossary of terms that you might have seen associated with renewable energy. We hope it’s helpful!

Battery storage - Battery storage is a technology that allows renewable energy - such as solar or wind power - to be stored and then released at a later date when the energy is needed. This also means that customers can draw energy from the grid during off-peak hours, then use that energy during peak hours, reducing their bills. Read more about battery storage in our guide here.

Biomass - Biomass is any plant-based material that is used as fuel to produce heat or electricity, most commonly wood, animal waste and plant material. Although biomass produces carbon dioxide when burnt, it is still categorised as a renewable energy as it releases considerably less than fossil fuels. A biomass heating system burns wood pellets, and can be used either to heat a room, or to power central heating and hot water systems. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a wood-fuelled biomass boiler could save you up to £1,100 a year compared to a traditional electric heating system.

Geothermal - Geothermal energy is another renewable energy source, and refers to energy taken from the Earth’s core. It is contained in the rocks and fluids, and is carried to the Earth’s surface in water or steam. Geothermal electricity generation is currently used in 26 countries around the world - including the US, Iceland and New Zealand - with the most active resources usually found on tectonic plate boundaries, where volcanoes tend to be located. 

Heat pump - A heat pump is a piece of equipment that captures heat from outside and moves it into your home. There are two different types of heat pump: air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. You can learn more about the benefits of heat pumps, and how they work, in our guide here

Hydropower - Also known as hydroelectric power, hydropower is a renewable energy source that uses the flow of water to create electricity. It is one of the oldest renewable energy sources, with the first water turbines built in the mid-1800s. Currently around 30% to 40% of the UK’s renewable generation is provided by hydropower.

Net zero - You might hear people referring to the “transition to net zero” in order to tackle the climate crisis. In simple terms, net zero is all about the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced, and the amount removed from the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore we reach net zero when the amount added is no more than the amount taken away. The reason it’s so important that we reach this goal is because net zero will be the state at which global warming stops. 

Onshore and offshore wind power - Onshore and offshore are the two different types of wind energy. Onshore wind energy is generated using turbines situated on land, and driven by the natural movement of air; offshore wind energy, on the other hand, generates energy from wind blowing across the sea. Offshore wind farms are considered more important than their onshore equivalents, due to the higher wind speeds and lack of interference from land or human-made objects. Currently, the UK is the world leader in offshore wind; according to the National Grid, as of 2020 we play host to 2,200 wind turbines across 35 offshore wind farms off the coast of England, Scotland and Wales. 

Photovoltaic - Photovoltaics is the conversion of light into electricity. Solar panels consist of a number of photovoltaic cells, and are sometimes known as photovoltaic panels. 

PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) - A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV) is a vehicle that uses a combination of a petrol or diesel engine, and an electric battery. The difference between a normal hybrid car and a PHEV is that you can recharge a PHEV’s batteries by plugging it in. 

Can you think of any terms we’ve missed? Tweet us to let us know!