Civic News

A green tech Earth Day glossary

Biomass? Photovoltaics? Carbon capture? A list of terms to help you navigate discussions about our changing environment.

The Block Island Offshore Wind Farm, off the coast of Rhode Island, is the nation's first such facility — but many more are in planning. (Wikimedia Commons / Ionna22)
Technology related to climate and sustainability has become a huge industry — with lots of terminology.

How big? The global green technology market is projected to reach nearly $75 billion by 2030, ballooning from just over $10 billion in 2020. And while some industries are seeing slowing venture capital investment, greentech is one area that still seeing large raises.

For Earth Day, we’ve rounded up and defined a selection of terms related to climate and sustainability technology, to help navigate climate friendly (and not-so-friendly) technology.

Greentech: Green tech is an umbrella term for technology designed to mitigate climate change. Alternately known as cleantech and climate tech.

Biofuel: Fuel made from living matter, such as sugar cane, soybeans or vegetable/animal oils.

Biomass: The matter used to make biofuel.

Blue tech: The maritime industry’s advanced technology sector (blue=ocean). This sector includes offshore wind farms, autonomous vessels, and reefs made from technology such as 3D printing.

Carbon capture and storage: Technology that aims to mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the air. The carbon is collected in a solid form, which can be recycled, reused or stored.

Decarbonization: The industrial process of lowering carbon emissions from a company’s buildings, plants or factories.

Electric vehicle (EV): A vehicle that runs on a rechargeable battery-powered engine rather than a gas engine.

Emissions: Usually shorthand for carbon emissions, or the discharge of carbon from combusting fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels: Hydrocarbon-based energy sources that emit C02.

Geothermal energy: Power created by the earth’s heat deep below the ground. The heat is used to turn a turbine to spin a generator to create energy.

Green hydrogen: Hydrogen produced for clean hydrogen fuel cells using a method that does not create CO2 like traditional hydrogen production.

Hybrid vehicle: A vehicle that runs on a combination of an electric-powered battery and gas.

Hydrocarbons: Organic matter made of hydrogen and carbon; this is what is extracted from coal, oil or gas.

Hydroelectric power: Power created by water movement, such as dams. Though hydroelectric power is clean energy, mega-dam construction can have a negative impact on the surrounding natural ecosystem.

Hydrogen power: A clean, self-renewing energy produced by combining hydrogen and oxygen. This technology is seen in hydrogen fuel cells that can be used to power vehicles and vessels. If the hydrogen used isn’t green, CO2 was produced while making it.

Hydroponics: A type of agriculture that doesn’t use soil. This kind of indoor farming can be useful in parts of the world with extensive soil erosion or drought-ravaged soil. Because it is often an indoor method of farming, it is not as impacted by extreme weather.

Methane: A natural gas that releases carbon emissions when burned. Methane is frequently used to power factories and homes.

Nuclear power: A zero-emission energy source created by fission, or splitting uranium atoms. Fission creates steam inside a nuclear reactor that spins a turbine to create energy.

Petrochemicals: Chemical compounds created from refining petroleum, such as plastics. Some of these compounds can be created from refining or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane.

Renewable energy: Energy sources that are not finite, such as wind, sun and biofuels.

Smart grids: Power networks that are able to monitor, measure, and manage the transport of electricity using AI.

Solar photovoltaics (PV): Electronic devices that economically generate electricity when exposed to photons or particles of light. PV is the evolving technology used in most consumer and commercial solar panels.

Solar power: Electric power created by harvesting sunlight, usually through solar panels

Turbine: Large fan-like structure that turns the movement of air into energy. Wind turbines are similar to windmills; turbines also help create nuclear and geothermal energy

Wind power: Renewable energy that comes from wind collected when it turns the blades of a fan-like wind turbine that spins a generator. Most wind energy comes from wind farms, which may be offshore, onshore or floating.


Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


Philly startup Burro aims to revolutionize farming with robots

How to encourage more healthcare entrepreneurship (and why that matters)

Howard University’s Black Commerce Conference doubles in size for its return on Juneteenth

Find out what type of heat wave you’re really in for with NOAA’s HeatRisk dashboard

Technically Media