Did you know that in 2010 there were over 2.8 million solar panels in use in the United States? Each year, the numbers continue to grow as people look into renewable sources of energy for their homes.
We’re going to teach you a few terms that are widely used in the industry. It’s always a good idea to better understand them if you decide to consider solar energy for your family.
Terms courtesy of SunRunHome.com:
Alternating current (AC) = the type of electric current that powers all electric appliances in your home.
Array = a set of photovoltaic panels. A home solar electric system might include several arrays on different parts of the roof.
BIPV panel = a type of solar electric panel that uses silicon as a semiconductor and acts like a part of your roof. They’re also known as solar roof shingles. BIPV can be done on new or existing roofs.
Cell = the smallest part of a solar panel that converts light into solar electricity.
Direct Current (DC) = 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.
Gigawatt = one billion watts.
Ground mount = a solar electrical system that is mounted on the ground instead of on a roof.
Interconnection = the process of hooking up a solar electrical system to the power grid.
Inverter = the electrical device that converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.
Kilowatt = One thousand watts.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh) = 1,000 thousand watts acting over a period of one hour. A kWh is the unit of energy.
Megawatt = one million watts.
Module = a solar panel, or a group of solar cells.
Monocrystalline panel = a solar panel that’s made from a large, single silicon crystal and has a patchwork pattern. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive and more efficient than multi- or poly- crystalline panels.
Multicrystalline panel = (also polycrystalline) a solar panel that’s made from small silicon crystals oriented in lots of different directions. Multicrystalline panels are less expensive and less efficient than monocrystalline panels.
Net meter = an electricity meter that spins both forward and backwards. It can track how much electricity your solar system puts into the power grid and how much electricity your home pulls out of the grid.
Semiconductor = a material that has a limited ability to conduct electric current. Semiconductors used in different types of solar panels include copper indium diselenide, cadmium telluride gallium arsenide, and silicon.
Silicon = a dark gray, semi-metallic, chemical element. Silicon is the material most commonly used semiconductor used in solar cells and computer chips.
Solar constant = the average amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s upper atmosphere, equal to 1353 watts per square meter.
Solar noon = the time of day when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.
Tilt = the angle a solar panel makes with the horizon. The ideal tilt for a location will mean that the panels absorb as much sunlight as possible.
Tracking panels = solar panels that can change the direction they face to follow the sun’s movements.
Watt = a unit of power equal to amps times volts.
To find out more information about solar energy, you can check out our new infographic, “What You Need To Know About Solar Energy.”