Baseload plants

Baseload power plants provide a near-constant amount of electricity to the grid

Capacity factor

The average power generated by a source divided its maximum possible power generation

Electromagnetic radiation

Electromagnetic radiation is light, either visible or invisible. Sunlight is in the visible, ultraviolet and infrared bands of radiation, while Earth's radiation is infrared.


The ability to do work or to heat something. Measured in Calories or joules. One watt of power provides one joule of energy each second.

Energy payback time

Energy payback time (EPBT) is the amount of time it takes for a power source to generate an amount of energy equal to the initial energy investment

Energy return on energy investment

Energy return on energy investment (EROI) is the amount of energy that a source generates over its lifetime divided by the initial energy investment.

Final energy

Final energy is energy that is actually put to use. The difference between primary energy and final energy is the energy that is lost to transformation and transmission.

Flywheel energy storage

Flywheel energy storage spins a wheel faster when there's extra power available, and uses this rotational energy to create electricity when needed.

Gravitational energy storage

Gravitational energy storage systems store potential energy by lifting objects when electricity is available. The objects are lowered when energy is needed, using the energy to turn a turbine and create electricity.

Heat pump

A heat pump provides both heating and cooling by compressing and expanding a fluid. An efficient way to reduce carbon emissions from buildings.

Heat-trapping gases

Also known as greenhouse gases, these trap infrared radiation emitted from the Earth's surface. They prevent heat from escaping directly to space, and therefore warm the planet.


The demand for electricity of an electrical grid. Must be matched by power generation or power from storage at all times.

Load-following plants

Load-following power plants are facilities that can increase or decrease their electricity generation quickly to adjust to the demand, or load


An electricity grid that can function on its own, balancing load with generation, even if separated from the larger power grid.

Nameplate capacity

The maximum amount of electrical power that can be generated by a given source.

Particulate matter

Also known as aerosol particles, these are tiny liquid or solid particles that can make it deep into our lungs, affecting our breathing. Particulate matter is released by combustion of fossil fuels, biomass and waste, or from dust.

Peaker plants

Peaker plants are used to satisfy very high demand times, needed to prevent blackouts on days with very high load, like extremely hot days. Peaker plants are often highly polluting.


This refers to solar panels, that turn sunlight into electricity


Rate of energy production or use. Has units of watts.

Process emissions

Emissions that come from the chemistry of an industrial process. For example, the production of Portland cement from calcium carbonate results in a large direct release of carbon dioxide.

Pumped hydroelectric energy storage

Pumped hydroelectric stores gravitational potential energy by pumping water upward when extra electricity is available. The water can then be used later to turn a turbine to create electricity.

Radiative forcing

How much the Earth's energy budget is affected by a natural or pollution-caused factor. Either affects the amount of sunlight absorbed on Earth, or the amount of infrared radiation trapped.

Sacrifice zone

"Sacrifice zones are working class Black, Brown, multiracial, and poor white communities and Indigenous Peoples whose health, wealth, and lives have been sacrificed to advance the profits of corporations that control polluting industries. These specifically include communities impacted by pollution hotspots created by ports, transportation centers, fossil fuel, chemical, manufacturing, mining, and industrial agriculture industries." (from the People's Orientation to a Regenerative Economy)


A material that conducts electricity only under certain circumstances. When used in solar panels, they can conduct electricity when struck by sunlight.


A unit of measurement corresponding to 1 terawatt (TW, trillion watts) of average power generation. Equivalent to 1 TW-yr of energy production each year, or 8760 TWh per year. A tera of electricity generation could power a substantial fraction of the world's power demand.


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Climate, Justice and Energy Solutions Copyright © 2022, 2023, 2024 by Dargan M. W. Frierson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.