How Solar Panels Work

Solar Energy Glossary

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Listed below are definitions to common solar terms:

Alternating current (AC) is the kind of electrical current commonly used to power all your household items, available from plug outlets in your wall. Alternating current is the most efficient transmission of energy. Its most common form is a sine wave, meaning a very “smooth” wave. Other forms of alternating current are triangular and square waves. The magnitude of alternating current varies in a cyclical form.

Array is a set of photovoltaic panels. A  home solar electric system might include several arrays on different parts of the roof.

Current is the flow rate of charges through a wire. Current is measured in amperes, and is sometimes called amperage.

Direct Current (DC) is a type of low voltage electrical current. DC electricity is produced by solar cells and must be converted into AC before it’s usable in a house.

Electricity is the movement of electrons in a current.

Grid is a system of high tension cables in a region that distributes electricity to homes, commercial solar businesses, and other buildings.

Grid tied/Grid connected is a solar panel system that is connected to the power grid and uses the grid as a backup source of power.

Inverter is the electrical device that converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.

Kilowatt is one thousand watts.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) is 1,000 watts acting over a period of one hour. A kWh is the unit of energy.

Megawatt is one million watts.

Net metering refers to the amount of electricity you are billed for by your utility company after you use all of the electricity you generate with your solar panel system. If you need additional power after you use the electric power your system generates, you will draw that electric power from the grid and be billed for the usage. If you don’t need all of the power you generate and you are feeding the grid electricity, this will appear on your bill as a credit – spinning your utility meter backward. At the end of the year, you will be net billed and in some cases may receive a credit if you’ve produced more energy than you have used. For more information on net metering, incentives, grants, and SRECs, click here.

Photovoltaic is the process of converting light into electricity.

Solar Cells are the basic building blocks of a photovoltaic system.

SREC stands for Solar Renewable Energy Credit. For details click HERE.

watt is a measure of power x current.

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