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Solar Glossary of Terms

If you are new to the solar world, there are a few phrases you need to master in order to expertly navigate your way to the best solar installation for home. Here is a brief explanation of all the terms you may encounter during your solar journey.

Energy Audit

This is an audit conducted by a professional that measures electricity usage in the home. The results allow homeowners to take steps to conserve energy.

Feed-in Tariff (FIT)

Adopted by many local governments, these policies are aimed at promoting the installation of small to medium solar energy systems. Feed-in tariffs typically provide home and business owners with a contract that allows them to sell excess electricity they generate to the grid at a guaranteed price.

Net Metering

Net metering is a billing system that credits solar customers for the excess electricity they add to the grid. Throughout the day, many households produce more solar energy than they actually use. With net metering, customers are able to earn credit to offset some of what they pay their utility for the energy they use at night or times when the system isn’t generating enough power to meet their energy needs.

Each state implements its own net metering system and has its own unique legislation.

Off-Grid

An independent system for generating electricity that is not connected to the electricity grid.

Parallel Connection

A common method of connecting photovoltaic panels together where the positive leads are connected to each other and the negative leads are connected to increase the current. In this configuration, the voltage remains the same.

Photovoltaic Panels (PV)

Also known as PV, photovoltaic devices convert sunlight into electricity that you can use to power your home. These devices contain silicone which is naturally photovoltaic.

When sunlight hits the silicone, it knocks electrons loose from the atoms. Electrical conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of the device to form a circuit along which the electrons can travel to create electric current.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement. Typically under a power purchase agreement, a solar company will coordinate and install a solar energy system on a customer’s roof at little to no cost. The solar company then sells the power generated by the home solar system back to the customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate.

Renewable Energy Credit (REC)

A tradable energy commodity that represents proof that one megawatt-hour of electricity was generated from a renewable energy source like solar power.

Solar Energy

Energy we receive from the sun as light and electromagnetic radiation.

Solar Inverter

Solar panels create Direct Current (DC) while your house uses Alternating Current (AC). A solar inverter will convert the DC electricity from the sun into AC energy you can use to power your home and business.

Solar Microinverters

Microinverters are much smaller than regular inverters but they perform a similar job. When installers use a standard inverter, solar panels are typically connected in a series that produces one burst of power that is sent to a central inverter. Microinverters are typically attached to each individual solar panel and the current from each panel is directly converted and sent into your home.

Solar Panel

A device that turns energy from the sun into electricity. Each individual solar panel produces a small amount of energy, but when grouped together in an array, the energy output is increased allowing users enough electricity to power their needs.

Watt

A watt is a unit of measurement which indicates the rate of flow of electric energy the equivalent of one joule per second. One kilo-watt hour is the energy delivered by 1000 watts of electricity in one hour.

A kilowatt is a thousand watts, a megawatt is a million watts and a gigawatt is a billion watts.