So you’re searching for the right solar technology and the best installer to meet your needs. But there are lots of words and phrases that are hard to understand. That’s why we put together this Solar Glossary — to help you make an informed decision about going solar. This is part 1 of a three-part series, and we’re starting with the basics: the terms you’ll often see related to electricity and solar production.
AC: Alternating current electricity. This is the type of power your home uses in all its internal wiring. Your home receives electricity in the form of AC from the nearby transformer through power lines.
DC: Direct current electricity — The type of power produced by solar panels before it’s converted to AC by an inverter or microinverter. The consistent and constant voltage of DC power supplies electronics that use a battery, such as your mobile device or smartphone. Most of your electronic devices use a power adaptor to convert AC Power to DC.
Grid: This refers to a network of power lines that deliver electricity from a utility company’s power source to all homes and buildings connected to those lines.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh): This is the standard unit that’s used to calculate electricity production and usage. This is generally how your utility company measures your energy usage, and how a solar installer will determine what size of a solar system you will need.
Off-grid: Disconnected from the local utility company’s power lines, also known as the utility company’s power grid. If a home is off-grid, that home will need to produce all of its own power on-site instead of being able to access the utility’s power or deliver the excess power generated to the utility.
Solar Energy Terms
Azimuth: The angle of the sun in relationship to the earth’s surface. It’s an important thing to know because it affects your solar panel’s efficiency and production. The wrong azimuth angle could reduce the energy output of a solar array by quite a bit — by some measurements, up to 30%.
Renewable energy – Any power, fuel or electricity generated through environmentally friendly, sustainable, renewable resources as opposed to fossil fuels or other limited natural resources. This includes solar energy, but can also include things like wind, water, and geothermal energy.
Efficiency (aka Solar Panel Efficiency): The measurement of how much of the energy a solar panel absorbs actually gets converted into useable electricity. When you see this term, you’ll find it’s measured as a percentage.
Monitoring – Using software that helps users of a solar system track and manage their solar system’s energy production. The Enphase software solution is called Enlighten and can be accessed on a computer’s web browser or as a mobile app.
Power rating: The amount of electricity a solar panel or a solar system is technically able to produce —it is usually the maximum power that the panels can produce in ideal conditions.
Reliability: The calculation of how often a solar system is up and running and producing energy.
Click here to read part two - Solar System Components & Definitions and part three Solar Power Purchase Agreement Definition, and Financial Contract Terms.