Solar Speak


Carbon neutral, or having a zero carbon footprint, is achieved by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced with an equivalent amount offset. Sometimes companies plant trees to offset the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels. This term can also be used to describe energy that does not cause the release of any CO2 at all – the vast majority of microgeneration technologies produce electricity without releasing CO2.


Carbon dioxide is probably the most important of the greenhouse gases and is currently responsible for 60% of the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’. It is thought that it’s been in the atmosphere for over four billion of the Earth’s 4.6 billion year geological history. Although the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere by plants is almost perfectly balanced with the amount put back into the atmosphere by respiration and decay, small changes as a result of human activities can have a large impact on this delicate balance.


Combined heat and power describes a unit that simultaneously generates heat and electricity.


This is the name for the Government scheme to encourage renewable heat and energy.


Introduced in England and Wales in 2007 as part of the Home Information Packs (HIPs) for domestic properties with four or more bedrooms. While the HIPSs were removed in 2010 the EPCs continued. They rate your premises for energy efficiency on a scale of A to G. all homes, whether bought or rented require an EPC.


Also known as FITs are the electricity part of what some people call Clean Energy Cashback, a scheme that pays people for creating their own "green electricity". The second part of the scheme is the Renewable Heat Incentive, a similar measure for heat. The tariffs have been introduced by the Government to help increase the level of renewable energy in the UK towards our legally binding target of 15% of total energy from renewables by 2020 (up from under 2% in 2009).


This will come into effect in October 2012 and is a pay-as-you-save scheme for energy efficiency measures. It will be available for domestic, business and landlord use.


a kilowatt (kW) is a unit of energy and a kilowatt hour (kWh) is most commonly used as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers by electric utilities. Many people get confused about the difference between watts and watt hours.
As a simple rule of thumb:
•    Watts measure the rate of use at a particular instant
•    Watt hours are a total energy used over a period of time


This comes from sources that produce more greenhouse gases but fewer than usual and more traditional means of power generation. It includes zero carbon power generation sources such as wind power, solar power, geothermal power and nuclear power (except for fuel preparation). These power generation techniques emit a lot less carbon dioxide than a traditional fossil fuel power plant.


This term refers to the small scale generation of heat and power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs as alternatives or supplements to traditional central grid-connected power.


This scheme is an independent scheme that certifies microgeneration products and installers in accordance with consistent standards. It is designed to assess them against robust criteria, which will provide greater protection for consumers


The National Grid is the electric power transmission network which ensures that the entire UK has a ready supply of energy regardless of where it originates from. As part of the FIT scheme, any extra power generated from microgeneration based systems goes back into the National Grid.


This term derives from the Greek phos meaning ‘light’ and voltaic meaning ‘electric’, from the name of the Italian physicist Volta, after the unit of electro-motive force the volt is named. The term photovoltaic has been in English use since 1849. PV is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semi-conductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. PV power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing PV material.


You don’t usually need planning permission for the installation of microgeneration systems, but it is worth checking first with your local planning officer, especially if your building is listed or is in a conservation area.


This is energy that comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished).


The RO is designed to encourage generation of electricity from eligible renewable sources in the UK. The RO places an obligation on licensed electricity suppliers in the UK to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources.


The national average household consumption of electricity in the UK, excluding heating, is 3300kWh. A 2kWp solar PV system in a good location in the UK will generate around 1,700kWh of electricity per year. That is enough to meet just over half of the average household’s electricity needs and the system would also save almost a tonne of CO2 a year.


This is a device that converts the energy of sunlight directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. The term solar cell is reserved for devices designed specifically to capture energy from sunlight while the term photovoltaic cell is used when the light source is unspecified. Assemblies of cells are used to make solar modules also known as solar panels. The energy generated from this is referred to as solar power.


This is the common term for Solar Thermal Panels and Solar Photovoltaic Panels.


A photovoltaic system (PV) is a system which uses one or more solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. It consists of multiple components including photovoltaic modules, mechanical and electrical connections and mountings and means of regulating and/or modifying the electrical output.


When used for heating purposes, solar energy is called solar thermal, for example heating water.


This is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy such as using wind turbines to make electricity, windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping or drainage or sails to propel boats. The total amount of economically extractable power available from the wind is considerably more than present human power use from all sources. As an alternative to fossil fuels, wind power is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed and clean and produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. The cost per unit of energy produced is similar to the cost for new coal and natural gas installations.