13 Common Terms Related to Solar Energy

Thursday, June 27, 2019

For new or prospective solar customers, understanding solar power may seem overwhelming at first. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert on solar power to reduce energy consumption and save money with these innovative solutions. With that said, understanding some basic terms and concepts may enhance your overall solar power experience. Explore some of the most common terms to help inform your solar decisions below.

Solar Array – An array refers to multiple solar panels wired together. The size of your array depends on the number of panels you have. Thus, the more panels you have, the larger your solar array, and the more power it generates.

Utility or Electrical Grid – An electrical or utility grid is a network that delivers power from a power station to your solar system. The grid is an infrastructure comprising three elements: 1) power generators that produce electricity, 2) distribution lines that connect solar systems to the main power station, 3) high-voltage transmission lines that carry electricity from power sources to demand centres.

Efficiency – Efficiency is the amount (percentage) of sunlight a solar panel or cell absorbs and converts into usable energy. Thus, the more sunlight a cell absorbs and converts, the more efficient it is.

Alternative Energy – If you’re like other prospective solar customers, you may wonder: What is alternative energy? Simply put, this form of generated energy doesn’t rely on finite natural resources, making it eco-friendlier and more sustainable than energy generated from oil, natural gas, fossil fuels, or coal.

Renewable Energy – Just like alternative energy, this energy doesn’t rely on finite natural resources. It’s generated from sources that renew themselves—which, in the case of solar systems, is sunlight.

Solar Monitoring – Solar monitoring is the use of software to track and manage a system’s usage, carbon offsets, energy generation, billing, and so forth. Monitoring can be done from a computer, mobile device, or remote operations centre.

Photovoltaic (PV) – The term photovoltaic refers to the type of technology that converts sunlight into usable electricity using natural semiconductors. This allows a solar system to power electrical devices or send electricity to the utility grid.

Solar Cell – A solar cell is a thin, silicon light-capturing unit within a solar panel that is constructed with a negative and positive layer to create an electric field.

Micro-Inverter – A micro-inverter is a structure attached to the back of each solar panel. It optimizes the energy production of each individual panel to perform at maximum level, unlike the central inverter that optimizes the entire system.

Inverter – A solar inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity, the type needed to power electronic devices. Inverters also provide system stats and ground fault protection.

Net Metering – Net metering refers to a system that manages unused energy in a grid-tied solar system. In a grid-tied system, unused or excess energy is back-fed to the electrical grid and stored for later use. This stored energy turns into energy credits, which can be used in times of low coverage or to provide savings on energy bills.

Solar Batteries – Solar batteries are high-capacity, rechargeable devices that make up a solar storage system. They can be used to store excess energy for emergencies, nighttime use, or use during power outages.

Ground-Mounted Solar – A ground-mounted solar array is a system that is installed on the ground. Ground-mounted solar is commonly used for utility- or large-scale solar projects, such as community solar programs for multiple residential homes and/or businesses.

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