Renewable Energy Glossary

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Backed-Up Loads Panel

A subpanel in a grid-tied with battery back-up system that is isolated from the utility grid, and can receive power from the battery bank during power outages.

Backup Water Heater

A tank or tankless water heater that is preheated by a SWH system; may use natural gas, propane, fuel oil, wood, or electricity as an energy source.

Ballasted Mount

Mounts that do not penetrate the mounting surface but use weight, such as concrete blocks, to keep the racking from moving due to wind loads.

Batch Solar Hot Water Heater

The simplest of solar hot water systems. A tank of water within a glass-covered insulated enclosure aimed at the sun. Water is heated in the tank and then flows to the load or an auxiliary water heater.

Batt Insulation

Pre-cut pieces of insulation generally used for placement in floor, wall, or ceiling cavities.

Batteries

Chemical energy storage devices that utilize DC electricity.

Battery

A chemical energy storage device for DC electricity.

Battery Bank

A group of batteries wired together to a specific voltage and capacity.

Betz Limit

The theoretical maximum energy that a wind generator can extract from the wind--59.3 percent of the energy in the wind that would blow through the blades' swept area if they were not there. Well-designed, efficient home-scale wind generators might convert about half of the Betz limit energy.

Biodiesel

Vegetable oil or animal fat-based diesel fuel, manufactured by reacting vegetable oils or animal fats with an alcohol. Biodiesel can be used in broad applications, such as standard diesel engines and home heating oil applications.

Bioethanol

An ethanol alcohol fuel manufactured from common agricultural feed crops such as corn, potatoes, and sugar cane. Ethanol is commonly blended at 25% with gasoline for automotive fuel. E85 is an 85% ethanol fuel used in "Flex-Fuel" vehicles.

Biofuel

Biomass (garbage, wood, waste, landfill materials, and vegetable matter) converted directly to energy or converted to liquid or gaseous fuels, such as ethanol methane, and hydrogen.

Biomass

Any organic matter available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops, wastes, and residues; wood, wood wastes, and residues; animal wastes and municipal wastes; and aquatic plants.

BIPV

Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) combines photovoltaic cells with traditional building materials like roofing tiles, skylights, and windows, so the building structure itself produces energy.

Blade

The aerodynamically designed part of a wind turbine, which converts the energy of the wind into mechanical energy. These are typically used in 2- or 3-blade-rotor configurations, with twist and taper to maximize efficiency. Materials generally used are fiberglass and plastic composites.

Blower Door Test

A typical energy audit test procedure in which a strong fan, sealed into a doorframe of a house, blows air in or out to create a pressure differential throughout the building. Used to determine the amount and the locations of air leakage.

Board Insulation

Often referred to as insulating sheathings, rigid insulation or “blue board.” Board insulation is applied across the surface of walls, roofs, or foundations. This application reduces thermal bridging, can provide a continuous air barrier if sealed properly, and can warm the cavity side of the sheathing in cold climates.

Brake

Device for stopping a wind turbine for service or when not needed. This can be an electric brake that short-circuits the output of the alternator (see dynamic braking), or a mechanical brake (usually a disk brake) that uses friction to stop the rotation.

British Thermal Unit

The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree F. One BTU is approximately equivalent to the amount of heat given off by burning a kitchen match.

Brushes

Graphite blocks that ride on bronze slip rings to allow transmission of electricity from the yawing wind generator head to the fixed tower. Brushes may also be used in some configurations of wound-field alternators to transmit energy from one part of the device to another.

BTU

The British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree F. One Btu is approximately equivalent to the amount of heat given off by burning a kitchen match.

BTU

The British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound (1 pint) of water, 1 degree F. 1 kWh = 3,413 BTU.

Building Envelope

The outer layer of the building which includes the roof, walls, windows, and foundation.

Building Science

The physics of optimizing building performance and understanding why buildings fail in the relationship to the study of heat transfer, airflow, and moisture movement through the building envelope.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics

Combines photovoltaic cells with traditional building materials like roofing tiles, skylights, and windows, so the building structure itself produces energy.

Busbar

An electrical conductor that makes a common connection between several circuits.

Bypass Valve

A valve or set of valves used to bypass a tank, water heater, or other component.

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