Use our solar power glossary to learn more about the jargon and many terms related to solar panels and electricity. You don’t need to know all this information for your installation but no one likes to be flying blind.
Alternating current: type of electric current that powers common household appliances.
Amorphous semiconductor: a semiconductor not made of crystalline silicon. This is used to make many types of thin film solar panels.
Array: a set of photovoltaic panels that are part of a home solar electric system.
Azimuth: a measurement used to optimize the exact placement of photovoltaic panels. The azimuth angle describes the direction from which the sunlight comes, helping plan the where the solar panels should face to ensure optimum power production.
Balance of System: includes all parts of a solar electric system, excluding the panels and inverter.
Base load: the amount of electric power a utility must supply constantly to meet the demand for energy.
Batter: a back up for a solar electric system that stores extra power. This allows the home to have enough power when the solar system is not producing enough energy.
BIPV pane: a type of solar electric panel that uses silicon as a semiconductor. Many people refer to these as solar roof shingles.
Cell: the smallest part of a solar panel that converts light into solar electricity.
Direct Current: low voltage electrical current that is produced by solar cells. It must be converted to AC before it is able to be used in a home.
Feed-In Tariff (FiT): A feed-in tariff is money that the government and electricity companies pay you for the electricity that your system produces. There are two types of feed-in tariffs: gross and net. Gross is when you get paid for every Kw generated. Net FiT’s only pay you for the excess energy that you produce.
Gigawatt: one billion watts.
Grid: a system of high tension cables that distribute electricity to residential homes and commercial buildings.
Grid tied: a solar system that is connected to a power grid as a means of using the grid as a backup source of power.
Ground mount: a solar electrical system that is mounted on the ground instead of on a roof.
Interconnection: the process of hooking up a solar electrical system to the power grid.
Inverter: an electrical devise that converts DC electricity to AC electricity.
Kilowatt: One thousand watts.
Kilowatt-hour: 1,000 thousand watts acting over a period of one hour. A kWh is the unit of energy.
Megawatt: one million watts.
Module: a solar panel, or a group of solar cells.
Monocrystalline panel: these are made of single silicon crystal and are more expensive than multi- or poly- crystalline panels.
Multicrystalline panel: these are made of small silicon crystals and are less expensive than monocrystalline panels.
Net meter: an electricity meter that spins backwards and forwards to track how much electricity a solar system puts into the power grid as well as how much energy your home pulls from the grid.
Solar panel: a group of solar cells arranged on a panel.
Photon: a packet of light energy.
Photovoltaic: the process of converting light into electricity.
Polycrystalline panel: these are made from small silicon crystals and are less expensive than monocrystalline panels.
Power purchase agreement: a contract between a consumer and power product stating that the consumer will purchase a particular amount of power.
Renewable Energy Certificates (REC’s): a form of currency created by the the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 which upon installation can be traded for dollars according to market conditions at the time. Its the government’s solar rebate. Read more about REC’s
Semiconductor: a material that has the ability to conduct electric current. These are used in many types of solar panels and include copper indium diselenide, silicon, and cadmium telluride gallium arsenide.
Silicon: a semi-metallic, dark gray material that is a commonly used semiconductor in solar cells.
Solar constant: the average amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s upper atmosphere.
Solar noon: this is the time of the day in which the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. This is not necessarily the same time as “clock noon.”
Stand alone/off grid: this type of solar electric system is not connected to a power grid. These may or may not contain a battery.
Thin film panel: a thin and flexible solar panel. This refers to both amorphous photovoltaic solar panels and panels that use other semiconductors like copper indium gallium diselenide and cadmium telluride.
Tilt: the angle a solar panel makes with the horizon with the goal of the panels absorbing as much sunlight as possible.
Tracking panels: solar panels that are able to change direction to follow the movement of the sun.
Watt: a unit of power equal to amps times volts.