Solar Trust Centre: Solar Glossary

Here are a few key solar terms we use and what they mean.

Solar Glossary

If you’re new to solar then it’s likely you don’t fully understand “solar speak”! To help you gain an understanding of the world of solar, the following is a glossary on key solar terms

Battery

A battery connects to your solar system and stores excess energy produced during the day. This power can be used by your own system outside of peak hours, rather than having to draw power from the grid.

Battery storage capacity is measured in Kilowatt Hours (kWh). The size of your house, the number of solar panels on your roof, and the patterns of your energy consumption indicate how many kWhs of battery storage are needed for your system.

Crystalline Silicon

This is the most common solar panel, appearing as blue or black rectangular grids divided into smaller squares. The small squares, silicon solar cells, connect to form a circuit. Crystalline Silicon solar panels come in two varieties: Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline.

Feed-in-tariff

A feed-in-tariff is implemented by some electricity retailers and pays you for excess electricity produced by your own solar PV system (that is not used to power your home).

There are two categories of feed-in-tariffs. In accordance with a net feed-in-tariff, a fee is paid for any electricity produced by your system that goes back into the grid.

Alternatively, with a gross feed-in-tariff, you receive payment for every unit of energy produced by your panels, as all energy generated by your system bypasses your house and is exported to powerlines (ie, the grid). This type of tariff is no longer offered for new connections.

Grid-Connected System

A solar system, electric or photovoltaic, whereby the PV component acts like a central generating plant, providing power for the grid.

Hybrid System

A solar system, electric or photovoltaic, that combines other sources of energy generation, such as wind or diesel generators.

Inverter

A component of your solar system that converts DC (direct current) electricity to AC (alternating current). This can either power stand-alone systems or return electricity to the grid.

Kilowatt (kW)

Kilowatts (kW) are a measurement of one thousand watts (W), and are the standard unit of electrical power. Can also be expressed as the power consumption at a rate of one thousand joules per second.

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)

A measure of energy, of one thousand watts acting over a period of one hour. The kWh is a unit of energy. 1 kWh=3600 kJ.

Life-Cycle Cost

An estimation of what it costs to own and operate a photovoltaic system from its installation to its end of life.

Peak Demand/Load

The highest demand for energy consumption in a particular period of time.

Photovoltaic (PV) Cell

The smallest semiconductor element within a PV module to perform the immediate conversion of light into electrical energy (direct current voltage and current). Also called a solar cell.

Photovoltaic (PV) Conversion Efficiency

The portion of usable electricity generated by a photovoltaic cell compared to the power of the sunlight incident on the device.

Rackless solar systems (solar tiles, solar shingles, solar roofs)

Small, rectangular solar panels that are installed without traditional racking systems.

Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs)

Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) are a trade commodity that represent the cost of buying a solar system for your property, subsidised to a maximum dollar value. These can be obtained when you buy a renewable energy system.

The number of STCs assigned to you is calculated by assessing the saving of CO2 emissions attributed to your system. This is determined through the amount of electricity produced or displaced by your system.

Solar Energy

Radiant energy (such as light and heat) transmitted from the sun.

The amount that reaches the earth is equal to one billionth of total solar energy generated, or the equivalent of about 420 trillion kilowatt-hours.

Solar Inverter

Has the function of  converting the direct current (or DC output) into alternating current (or AC). AC is the standard used by all commercial appliances.

Standard Test Conditions (STC)

The laboratory conditions whereby solar pv modules are tested to determine solar panel output performance. This is used by manufacturers to determine how much solar energy can be converted to usable electricity.

Storage Battery

A device that stores energy by for later consumption by transforming electric energy to chemical energy, and vice versa.

Tilt Angle

The most optimal angle to position a photovoltaic module in order to maximize seasonal or annual collection of solar energy. The angle is expressed relative to a horizontal position, and can be adjusted according to seasons.

Watt

A unit of power, calculated by the rate of energy transfer equivalent to one ampere under an electrical pressure of one volt. One watt equals 1/746 horsepower, or one joule per second. It is the product of voltage and current (amperage).

For more information

LG’s glossary covers more terms to help you get started.

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