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Solar Glossary


Solar Panel: A device that converts sunlight into electricity.

Photovoltaic (PV): The technology used to convert sunlight into electrical energy.

Inverter: Equipment that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC electricity.

Solar Cells: Individual units within a solar panel that convert sunlight into electricity.

Grid-Tied System: A solar installation that is connected to the utility electrical grid.

Off-Grid System: A solar installation not connected to the utility grid, often using batteries for storage.

Net Metering: A billing mechanism that allows solar panel owners to sell excess electricity back to the grid.

Solar Array: A collection of multiple solar panels connected together.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): Unit of energy commonly used to measure electricity usage.

Watt (W): Unit of electrical power.

Mounting System: The structure used to attach solar panels to a surface like a roof or ground.

Energy Storage: Devices like batteries are used to store excess solar energy.

Charge Controller: Device that manages the charging and discharging of solar batteries.

Micro-Inverter: A small inverter for a single solar panel, as opposed to a string or central inverter that serves multiple panels.

Solar Efficiency: The ratio of energy output from the solar cell to input energy from the sun.

Interconnection: The technical and legal process of connecting a solar system to the electrical grid.

Solar Irradiance: The power per unit area received from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

Monocrystalline: A type of solar cell made from a single crystal structure, usually more efficient but expensive.

Polycrystalline: A type of solar cell made from multiple crystal structures, usually less efficient but cheaper.

Thin-Film: A type of solar cell made by depositing one or more thin layers of photovoltaic material.

DC-AC Conversion: The process of converting Direct Current to Alternating Current.

String Inverter: An inverter serving a string of multiple solar panels.

Solar Coefficient: Measures how much panel efficiency decreases as temperature increases.

Solar Insolation: Measure of solar power received per unit area at a particular location.

Stand-Alone System: A solar system that operates independently of the utility grid.

Utility-Scale Solar: Large solar installations designed to provide power to the electrical grid.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs): Certificates that represent the environmental benefits of renewable energy production.

Feed-In Tariff: Payments to ordinary energy users for the renewable electricity they generate.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A contract to buy the electricity generated by a solar system.

Peak Load: The highest level of electricity demand in a given period.

Tilt Angle: The angle at which a solar panel is set to maximize its exposure to the sun.

Azimuth Angle: The compass direction in which the solar panels are pointed.

Balance of System (BOS): All supporting components of a solar system excluding the solar panels themselves.

Solar Tracker: Mechanism that moves solar panels to follow the sun.

Optimized Inverter: An inverter with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to optimize power extraction from solar panels.

Islanding: A condition where a solar system continues to power a location even though electrical grid power is unavailable.

Open-Circuit Voltage (Voc): The maximum possible voltage across a solar cell.

Short-Circuit Current (Isc): The maximum possible current through a solar cell.

Maximum Power Point (MPP): The point at which a solar cell produces the most power.

Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE): The per-unit cost of electricity over the solar system’s lifetime.

Solar Access Laws: Laws that protect a homeowner’s right to access sunlight for solar energy use.

Hybrid System: A solar installation combined with another form of electricity generation, often wind or a generator.

Solar Canopy: A structure with solar panels that serves as a shade structure as well, often over parking lots.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): Solar panels integrated into the building material itself, such as solar windows or solar roofs.

Energy Audit: An assessment to evaluate energy use and identify cost-effective options to reduce energy consumption and costs.

Performance Ratio: Compares the actual output of a solar system to its theoretical maximum output.

Capacity Factor: The ratio of the actual energy output to the maximum possible output over a certain period.

String: A series of solar panels connected in sequence.

Inverter Clipping: A situation where the inverter cannot convert all the DC power it is receiving into AC power, usually because it’s receiving more power than its rated capacity.

Shading Analysis: An evaluation to determine how much shade may fall on a solar panel, affecting its efficiency.

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