Time to read: 15 minutes
Date: May 3, 2023
As the world continues to transition towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, solar power has emerged as a leading contender in the race to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Harnessing the energy of the sun has the potential to provide reliable and renewable electricity to homes, businesses, and communities around the world, especially in Texas where the sun is always shining. However, the world of solar power can be complex and technical, with a host of specialized terms and concepts that can be confusing for the uninitiated. In this article, we will provide an introduction to solar terminology, explaining the key concepts and definitions that are essential for understanding this exciting and rapidly evolving field. Whether you are a homeowner considering installing solar panels, or simply interested in learning more about this innovative technology, this post will provide a solid foundation for further exploration.
Solar Terms you may hear during your Solar Journey!
- Solar energy: Energy obtained from the sun’s radiation.
- Solar module (Solar panel): A device that converts sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells.
- Photovoltaic (PV) cell: A device that converts light energy directly into electrical energy.
- Solar radiation: Electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun.
- Solar irradiance: The amount of solar radiation received per unit area.
- Solar insolation: The amount of solar radiation received per unit area over a period of time.
- Solar angle: The angle at which the sun’s rays strike a surface.
- Solar tracking: The process of adjusting the position of a solar panel or collector to optimize its exposure to the sun.
- Solar efficiency: The ratio of the output energy of a solar device to the input energy from the sun.
- Solar cell efficiency: The ratio of the electrical power output of a photovoltaic cell to the incident energy of the sun.
- Solar power: Electricity generated from solar energy.
Gear up for solar success – understanding your equipment is the first step!
- Solar Array: A collection of interconnected solar panels that generate electricity from the sun’s energy. Each panel contains photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into DC electricity, which is then converted to AC electricity by an inverter for use in homes, businesses, and other electrical loads. Solar arrays can be used in a range of applications, from small residential installations to large-scale solar power plants.
- Inverters: Converts DC electricity from solar panels into AC electricity suitable for use in homes, businesses, and electrical grids. It is a crucial component in a solar energy system and provides safety functions and performance monitoring capabilities.
- Microinverters: Installed on each solar panel in a system to convert DC electricity to AC electricity. They optimize the performance of each individual panel, maximizing the overall output of the system and providing real-time monitoring data for each panel.
- Energy Storage: Store excess electricity from solar panels for later use, providing a more reliable and consistent supply of energy. Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular type of energy storage technology. Energy storage can also provide backup power during outages and reduce reliance on the grid.
- Home Standby Generators: Backup power systems that automatically supply electricity to a home during a power outage. Home Standby Generators have variable fuel sources such as natural gas, propane or liquid fuels and are permanently installed outside of a home. The generator turns on automatically when your home loses power and supplies electricity to a home’s electrical panel through a transfer switch. Home standby generators provide a reliable source of backup power during extended outages and prevent damage to home appliances and electronics caused by power surges.
More Solar Lingo for a Successful Journey!
- Watt (W) and Kilowatt(kW): These are units of power commonly used in solar energy systems. A watt is a unit of power that represents the rate at which energy is generated or consumed, with one watt equaling one joule of energy per second. A kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. In solar energy systems, the power output of solar panels and inverters is typically measured in watts or kilowatts. The energy generated by a solar panel or a solar energy system over a period of time is typically measured in watt-hours or kilowatt-hours.
- Kilowatt-Hour (kWh): Is a unit of energy commonly used in solar energy systems. It represents the amount of energy consumed or generated over a period of time, with one kilowatt-hour equaling one kilowatt of power used for one hour. In solar energy systems, the energy generated by a solar panel or a solar energy system over a period of time is typically measured in kilowatt-hours. This unit of measurement is important for understanding how much electricity a solar energy system can generate and how much energy it can provide to a home or business.
- Megawatt (MW): is a unit of power measurement used for large-scale power plants or solar installations. It’s equivalent to one million watts or 1,000 kilowatts (kW). MW is used to measure the power output of utility-scale solar power plants or other types of large-scale power plants. It’s an important unit of measurement for capacity and output of solar power plants.
- Dollars Per Watt: Dollars per watt ($/W) is a unit of measurement used to compare the cost of solar energy systems. It represents the cost of the system per watt of power it generates, with one dollar per watt equaling a cost of one dollar for every watt of power capacity in the solar energy system. This unit of measurement is commonly used to compare the cost of solar panels and solar energy systems from different manufacturers and suppliers, as well as to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a solar energy system. The lower the $/W, the more cost-effective the solar energy system is.
- Dollars Per Kilowatt Hour: Dollars per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh) is a unit of measurement used to compare the cost of electricity generated from different sources, including solar energy systems. It represents the cost of generating one kilowatt-hour of electricity, with one dollar per kilowatt-hour equaling a cost of one dollar to generate one kilowatt-hour of electricity. This unit of measurement is commonly used to compare the cost of electricity generated from different sources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The lower the $/kWh, the more cost-effective the electricity generation is.
- Efficiency: Is a measure of how effectively a solar panel converts sunlight into electricity. It represents the percentage of sunlight that is converted into usable electrical energy. Solar panel efficiency is affected by several factors, including the quality of the solar cells, the design of the panel, and the environmental conditions in which the panel operates. The higher the efficiency of a solar panel, the more electricity it can generate for a given amount of sunlight. Solar panel efficiency is an important factor to consider when selecting solar panels for a solar energy system, as it can impact the overall performance and cost-effectiveness of the system.
- Peak Sun Hours: Refer to the amount of sunlight received in a specific location during the day when the sun is at its highest intensity. This period is usually around solar noon, which varies depending on the location and time of year. Peak sun hours are used to measure the amount of solar radiation available for a solar energy system to generate electricity. The calculation takes into account the angle of the sun, the duration of sunlight, and atmospheric conditions that may affect the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Accurately calculating peak sun hours is important when designing and installing solar energy systems as it helps to determine the system size and the amount of energy that can be generated.
- Capacity: Is the maximum amount of electricity a solar energy system can generate under specific conditions, measured in Kilowatt (kW) or Megawatt MW. It depends on factors such as the number and size of solar panels, inverters, and environmental conditions. It is important when designing a solar energy system as it determines the amount of electricity the system can generate and supply.
- Balance of System (BOS): Refers to the components of a solar energy system that are not part of the solar panels or inverters but are necessary for the system to function. These components include wiring, mounting hardware, monitoring systems, and energy storage systems. BOS components are essential for the installation and operation of a solar energy system. While they typically account for a smaller percentage of the overall system cost compared to the solar panels and inverters, the design and installation of BOS components can impact the overall performance and cost-effectiveness of a solar energy system. Careful consideration of BOS components is important to ensure a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective solar energy system.
- The Electricity Grid: Is the interconnected network of power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure that delivers electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. The grid is typically operated by utilities and is divided into three main components: the power plants that generate electricity, the transmission system that moves electricity over long distances at high voltages, and the distribution system that delivers electricity to homes and businesses at lower voltages. The electricity grid enables the reliable and efficient delivery of electricity to homes and businesses across a wide geographic area. The adoption of renewable energy technologies, such as solar, has led to the integration of distributed energy resources into the electricity grid, creating new challenges and opportunities for grid operators and energy consumers alike.
- Grid Connected System: Is a type of solar energy system that is connected to the utility grid. It allows for the electricity generated by the solar panels to be used by the home or business, with any excess energy sent back to the grid. Grid-connected systems typically use a net metering system, which allows the homeowner or business owner to receive credit for the excess energy they generate and send back to the grid based on the utility provider. Grid-connected systems can be designed to meet a portion or all of the electricity needs of a home or business, depending on the size of the system and the electricity usage of the property.
- Meter: Also known as a production meter or bi-directional meter, is a special utility meter used to measure the amount of electricity generated by a solar energy system and the amount of electricity used by a home or business. The solar meter is typically installed by the utility company and works in conjunction with the net metering system. The net metering system allows homeowners and business owners to receive credit for any excess energy their solar energy system generates and sends back to the grid. The solar meter accurately measures the energy produced by the solar panels and the energy consumed by the property, providing accurate data for billing and energy usage monitoring purposes. The use of a solar meter is typically required by the utility company when connecting a solar energy system to the grid.
- Interconnection: In the context of solar energy refers to the process of connecting a solar energy system to the utility grid. This process involves obtaining the necessary permits, completing the required paperwork, and installing the equipment necessary to safely and reliably connect the solar energy system to the grid. The interconnection process is typically managed by the local utility company and can vary depending on the location and size of the solar energy system. The purpose of interconnection is to allow the solar energy system to generate electricity and send any excess energy back to the grid, providing a source of renewable energy for the local community. Proper interconnection is essential to ensure the safety and reliability of the grid and the solar energy system.
- Net Metering: Allows solar energy system owners to receive credit for any excess energy generated and sent back to the grid based on the utility company. The utility company tracks the difference between the electricity produced and consumed, and credits can be used to offset the cost of grid electricity. Net metering policies vary, but they provide a financial incentive for renewable energy adoption.
- Solar Buyback: Also known as feed-in tariffs, refers to the policy where utilities pay homeowners or businesses for any excess solar energy they generate and send back to the grid. The buyback rate is usually set by the utility company and varies by location. This policy creates a financial incentive for solar energy system owners to produce more energy than they need, as they can receive payment for the excess. Solar buyback policies can vary and may include limits on the amount of energy that can be sold back, as well as minimum system size and installation requirements.
- Depth of Discharge: Is the percentage of a battery’s total capacity that has been discharged. For example, if a battery has a total capacity of 100 amp-hours and 50 amp-hours have been used, the depth of discharge is 50%. The depth of discharge is a critical factor in determining the lifespan of a battery and its overall performance. Batteries that are discharged to a greater extent have a shorter lifespan and lower efficiency compared to those that are discharged to a lesser extent. Therefore, it is essential to limit the depth of discharge to maximize the lifespan and performance of batteries in solar energy systems.
- Battery Life: Is how long a battery can store energy efficiently before needing replacement. Factors such as depth of discharge, operating temperature, and the number of cycles determine a battery’s lifespan. In solar energy systems, batteries are used for energy storage in off-grid or hybrid systems. Proper maintenance, such as avoiding overcharging or discharging, can significantly improve battery life and reduce overall system costs.
Empower Yourself With Solar Knowledge For A Brighter Future
Solar energy has become an increasingly popular option for powering homes and businesses, and it is essential to have a good understanding of the terminology involved in solar technology. Choosing the right solar company is also crucial to ensure that you get the most out of your solar energy system. A reputable solar company should be able to guide you through the process and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. By educating yourself about solar technology and working with a reliable solar company, you can take advantage of the many benefits that solar energy has to offer.
At IES Texas Solar educating our solar community is our number one priority! We have made it our mission to be a source of truth in renewable energy. Our team believes that accurate solar and backup power education is the foundation for making the best decision when choosing a system that fits your needs.
If you are considering installing a backup generator or switching to solar for your home or business, reach out to us by going to our website, iestxsolar.com, or by giving us a call at (855) 447-6527.