SOLAR GLOSSARY

A

AC (Alternating Current) - Alternating describes the flow of charge that changes periodically. As a result, the voltage level also reverses along with the current. AC is used to deliver power to houses, office buildings, etc. 

Array - a photovoltaic (PV) array is single electricity-producing unit that is made of an interconnected system of PV modules. 

Azimuth - the direction that your roof faces (in the context of solar). The azimuth is measured in degrees, representing the angle between your roof and true north.

B

Battery - a container consisting of two or more electrochemical cells that are enclosed and electrically interconnected in a parallel/series circuit to produce the required current levels and operating voltage.

C

conductor - the material in which electricity is transferred.

Crystalline Silicone - one type of photovoltaic cell made from a thin piece of polycrystalline silicon or single-crystal silicone.

current - the flow of electricity through a conductor.

D

DC (Direct Current) - rather than oscillating back and forth, DC provides a constant voltage or current. This is the type of electrical current produced by solar panels.

E

electricity - the flow of charged particles, such as ions or electrons, resulting in energy

energy - the power for sustained electrical activity

equinox - this event occurs twice a year when the sun crosses the equator, making the length of day and night equal

F

full sun - when the sun is strongest and highest in the sky, typically occurring around noon

federal investment tax credit (ITC) - commonly referred to as the solar tax credit, the ITC effectively reduces the cost of your solar energy system by 26% with a credit to your federal taxes (2020 calendar year) It is regarded as the most significant financial incentive for solar in the U.S.

G

grid - an interconnected network for delivering electricity from producers to consumers 

I

inverter - a component of a solar panel system that converts the electricity generated by solar panels into a format that can be used for your home

K

kilowatt (kW) - a measure of 1,000 watts of electrical power

kilowatt hour (kWh) - standard unit for electricity. In 2014, the average U.S. home used 911 kWh per month

M

megawatt (MW) - a measure of 1,000 kilowatts of electrical power

N

net metering - a practice that credits you for the excess electricity generated by your solar panels, which you can then draw upon when your panels don't produce enough electricity to match your usage. With net metering, you effectively use the electric grid to "store" excess electricity for later use. 

O

orientation - direction based off of North, East, South, and West

P

payback period - represents how long it takes to "break even" on a solar energy investment. The average payback period for solar homeowners in the U.S. is just over seven years.

photovoltaic (PV) - photo: light; Voltaic: electricity produced by a reaction. A photovoltaic system uses solar panels to capture sunlight's photons. These solar panels each have many solar cells made from layers of different materials. The reaction of these materials to light creates the constant movement of electrons which is, in effect, electricity.

power - the available electrical energy for doing work

S

solar - the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics, indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination of both. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect. With solar panels, light is absorbed, causing the stimulation of an electron to a higher-energy state.

W

watt (W) - the term that quantifies electrical transfer

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