Solar Definitions

Home Solar Definitions of the installation process


Solar Definitions

Listed below are some of the most common solar installations definitions. We provide these definitions so you can better understand the home solar installation process.

Alternating Current (AC) – an electric current that reverses direction at regular intervals.

Altitude – height of the sun above the horizon.

Ampere (amp) – unit of electric current (refers to flow of current); one ampere corresponds to a certain number of electrons passing a fixed point each second.

Array – photovoltaic modules connected together to provide a single electrical output.

Cell – basic unit of a photovoltaic panel.

Direct Current (DC) – an electric current in which electrons flow in one direction only.

Electrical Efficiency – useful power output divided by the total electrical power consumed.

Electric Circuit – complete path of an electric current, including the generating apparatus, intervening resistors, or capacitors.

Electric Current – rate of flow of electric charge, measured in amperes.

Electrical Grid – interconnected network for distributing electricity.

Energy – any source of usable power, as fossil fuel, electricity, or solar radiation.

Insolation – measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time.

Inverter – device that converts DC electricity into AC electricity.

Junction Box – protected enclosure for electrical wiring, sometimes called electrical box.

Kilowatt (kW) – 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh) – measure of kilowatt production of power in kilowatts and time in hours.

Load – (1) the power consumed on an electrical circuit. (2) a power-absorbing device, such as a blender, light bulb, etc.

Megawatt (MW) – 1,000,000 watts.

Module – interconnected assembly of solar cells; also called a panel.

Photovoltaic (PV) – technology and research that relates to the application of solar cells for energy by converting radiant energy directly to electricity.

Photovoltaic Efficiency – the ratio of power produced by a solar cell at any instant to the power of radiant energy striking the cell; certain factors such as temperature can cause the efficiency rate to vary during the day.

Photovoltaic System – a system which uses solar cells to convert light into electricity; consists of multiple components, including solar cells, mechanical and electrical connections and mountings and means of regulating and/or modifying the electrical output.

Radiance – light from the sun; also called solar radiance.

Remote System – photovoltaic system not connected to the utility grid.

Silicon – a chemical element from which semiconductors are made.

Solar – (1) of or pertaining to the sun. (2) utilizing, operated by, or depending on solar energy. (3) manufacturing or providing solar power.

Solar Energy – energy derived from the sun in the form of solar radiation.

Solar Power – energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy.

Thin Film – a thin layer of semiconductor material, such as amorphous silicon, which is deposited directly onto a plate of glass. Least efficient of all solar cells.

Tracking Array – a solar array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the photovoltaic surface.

Transformer – a device used to transfer electrical energy from one circuit to another; with an alternating current, a transformer will either raise or lower the voltage as it makes the transfer.

Volt (V) – standard unit of voltage; one volt produces one ampere of current when acting a resistance of one ohm.

Voltage – potential energy that makes the electrical current flow in a circuit by pushing the electrons around (pressure).

Watt (W) – the unit of electric power, or amount of work (J), done in a unit of time. One ampere of current flowing at a potential of one volt produces one watt of power.


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