Commercial Owner’s Guide: A Solar Glossary

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As much as we love the power of solar, it’s easy for the average consumer to get lost in the vocabulary soup. Solar energy is technically defined as radiant energy emitted by the sun.” However, the associated industry language isn’t that easy to follow. Below is a growing glossary of words typically associated with solar energy. The resource should help you navigate your commercial solar journey. 

Behind-the-Meter (BTM)
Behind-the-meter (BTM) solution refers to an energy system's position in relation to your electric meter. These are energy systems that are located on the customer's side of the utility meter. Energy systems can include battery storage, solar panels, or other energy-efficient appliances.

Combined heat and power (or CHP) is a system that produces heat and electricity in one process improving efficiency and lowering costs.

Battery Energy Storage 
Devices that enable energy from renewable sources to be stored and then released when the power is needed most. We wrote about how this is particularly beneficial for businesses. 

Commercial Retail Electricity 
The final sale of electricity from generation to the end-use consumer (that’s you). Check out our blog posts on retail electricity. 

Community Solar  
A FREE subscription-based model that connects hundreds of businesses and residential properties to a single utility-scale solar farm, typically resulting in up to 10% savings on your total monthly utility bill 

Connected Microgrid  
Is a behind-the-meter solar solution that uses custom-sized, non-penetrating solar panels to create on-site solar generation for your business. Catalyst Power eliminates the barrier to solar entry by owning, operating, and maintaining our solar arrays, saving you upfront cost and energy expenses over the duration of the agreement. 

Demand Response
A Demand Response program is an opportunity for customers to get paid to curb their electricity use in response to economic or reliability signals. We wrote about how this works here.

Distributed Energy Generation (DER) 
A variety of technologies that generate electricity at or near where it will be consumed 

Electrical Grid
The electrical grid, also known as our power grid, is a vast, interconnected network of power plants, transmission lines, and distribution centers that balance the supply and demand of the energy we use.

Electric Vehicle Charging
A charging station connected to the grid draws electricity from the power lines and converts it into the direct current (DC) needed to charge an EV battery.

Energy Service Provider (ESCO) 
An ESCO designs, builds, and implements financing for projects that reduce energy costs, generate power, and decrease maintenance costs for its customers. Catalyst Power is a one-stop shop for your energy needs. Learn more here. 

Independent Systems Operator (ISO)
An independent and federally regulated entity that coordinates regional transmission to ensure non-discriminatory access to the electric grid and a reliable electricity system.

Kilowatt & kilowatt hour (kWh) 
Commercial utility bills likely have two usage pricing factors – your peak or the highest amount of power you consumed in a period (kW), and how much power you consumed over time (kWh). A behind-the-meter solar solution can help reduce costs on both! 

Letter of Authorization (LOA)
This is a letter signed by an energy customer giving an energy broker and/or supplier the ability to obtain historical energy account information from the customer's local utility.

Load Shifting 
is a period when energy use is redistributed from peak times to off-peak times, saving you money. This is typically achieved through commercial battery energy storage or DER. 

Local Law 97
It serves as the centerpiece of the Climate Mobilization Act and is the largest building emissions reduction legislation in any city in the world. Implementation of the law started in January of 2024 and requires large buildings over 25,000 gross square feet to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. Ultimately, the goal is to cut 100% of carbon emissions by 2050.  

Carbon neutrality is achieved by a variety of means, from purchasing Renewable Energy Credits to eliminating fossil fuel energy use, meeting ESG standards, and more. An admirable and increasingly achievable goal for any company. 

Peak Shaving 
During certain time intervals, you can avoid high-demand charges (that’s your kW from above) during peak hours of the day by limiting your energy consumption. 

Photovoltaic Panels
Photovoltaic panels are another word for solar panels. They generate power using solar cells that absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. These cells are connected to form larger units known as panels.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) 
An arrangement in which a third-party developer installs, owns, and operates an energy system on a customer's property and sells back the energy produced. When Catalyst Power installs a Connected Microgrid Solution at no cost to you, we sell you the energy produced at a low fixed rate, saving you money. 

Utility Company
A utility company is responsible for the transmission of energy. They are companies that provide electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, and other services to homes and businesses.

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