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All You Need to Know about Solar Power: Terms & Definitions

Learn more about solar by checking out the most important definitions and terms below.

Alternating Current (AC)

An alternating current is distinguished from a direct current (DC) by its tendency to change its direction or voltage polarity over time. This type of current has widespread application in residential and commercial power systems. In fact, it is the form of electricity that most consumers use to power their homes.

Ampere (Amp)

Ampere is the basic measure of electric current in SI (the International System of Units). It indicates the amount of electricity that flows through the wires.

Direct Current (DC)

Unlike the alternating current, DC maintains constant voltage polarity and direction over time. It is the current used by photovoltaic cells found in solar panels to capture energy. If you want to use this energy, you will have to have a suitable inverter in your solar system that can convert DC into AC.

Electric Current

An electric current is defined as the flow rate of charged particles that pass through an electric circuit. There are two types of electric currents, alternating (AC) and direct (DC).

Distribution Board (Electric Panel)

An electric panel is a distribution panelboard that divides the electrical power in your home into different circuits, protected by circuit breakers or fuses. It is also referred to as an electrical cabinet or breaker box.

Fossil fuels

A fuel that is formed by fossilized remains of buried organisms or other natural processes is called a fossil fuel. The most well-known fossil fuels include oil, coal, and natural gas. Burning fossil fuels provides for approximately 80% of our total energy needs. In addition to being harmful for the environment, fossil fuels have been the focus of significant political maneuvering across the globe due to the fact that they are a non-renewable resource.

Greenhouse gas

A greenhouse gas is defined as a gas that is able to trap the heat from the sunlight and prevent it from leaving the atmosphere. The most well-known greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. The most important and prevalent of the greenhouse gases is CO2, released when burning fossil fuels. Solar energy, on the other hand, is considered clean due to the fact that it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.

Grid-Tied System

Grid-tied solar systems are systems that are connected to the utility grid via a grid-tie inverter. Homeowners can get paid by the utility company by feeding any excess power back into the system.

Ground-Mounted System

Solar systems that are built on the ground instead of on a rooftop are called ground mounted systems. They are great for installation sites which lack in roof space but feature ample open land.


Interconnection is the process by which a utility company distributes the power to and from your building.

Power Inverter

An inverter is an electronic device designed to convert direct into alternating current. The inverter is a crucial component of any solar system. Multiple inverters may be needed for larger solar systems.

Kilowatt (kW)

kW, which stands for kilowatt, is a measure of power that equals 1,000 watts. Solar system sizes are typically measured in kilowatts. For instance, an average residential solar system will have a measure of 5 kW, while a residential system is 100 kW.

Kilowatt-Hour (KWh)

A kilowatt-hour is a measure of your energy consumption. One KWh signifies the energy consumed by an appliance (1000-Watt) in one hour. Most utility companies use this measurement to calculate energy bills.

Net Metering

Net metering is defined as a billing mechanism that enables an owner of a solar system to purchase and sell generated energy to the electric utility and receive electric credits. If your solar system generates excess energy, you can sell it to the utility company. If your system produces less energy than usual, such as on cloudy days or at night, you can use these credits to buy some energy back.

On-Grid/Off-Grid Systems

While a solar system that is tied to the local utility grid is called a grid-tied or on-grid system, a system that uses battery storage instead of being tied to the utility grid is referred to as an off-grid solar system.

PV (Photovoltaic) System

A photovoltaic or PV system directly converts sunlight into electricity. It uses solar modules made from solar cells to generate power.

Roof-Mounted Systems

Solar systems that are installed on roofs are called roof-mounted systems. They comprise the majority of modern solar panels installed today.

Solar Arrays

A solar array refers to an installation of several solar panels.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is electromagnetic energy that is transmitted through sunlight. It has to be converted from DC into AC by an inverter to power homes or businesses.

Solar Panels

A solar panel is an assembly of solar cells (typically photovoltaic) mounted into a panel. Solar panels are sometimes also referred to as solar modules.

Stand-Alone Systems

A stand-alone or off-grid system is a solar panel system that is not interconnected with the grid. It provides continuous power if combined with a suitable battery storage system.

Free Monitoring Board

A free monitoring board service is designed to track and display your solar system’s production over time.

Tilt Angle

A tilt angle refers to the angle of your solar array in relation to the sun. Solar panels may be installed tilted or flat depending on your building’s location.

TOU Rates (Time of Use)

Time of Use is a billing system that bases the cost of electricity on the time of day and the season in which the electricity is used. For example, TOU rates will be higher in the afternoon (peak demand hours), and lower at night (off-peak hours).

Utility Grid

A utility grid is a commercial distribution system that serves to deliver electricity to residential and commercial properties. It is typically owned and regulated by utility companies.

Utility Meters

A utility meter is a metering device that measures the electricity usage of a building. This meter will spin backward if your solar panels generate excess power.

Volt (V)

The volt is a unit for electric voltage. It refers to the force needed to produce a steady electric current. Most household electrical systems use 120 V.

Watt (W)

The Watt (W) is a standard unit of power in the International System of Units, either by demand or capacity.

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