Our job is to make solar power easy, affordable, and available to a wide range of users. Our team of experienced solar power contractors have in-depth knowledge of the tools and technology needed to build efficient and cost-effective solar solutions. Below are several common solar power terms and definitions that clarify what solar energy is and how it works to power your residential or commercial property. Check out our Solar FAQ Page or schedule a free estimate to learn more.
Solar Power Materials & System Components
Most solar power systems consist of solar panels, conductors, inverters, and batteries. Below are terms that you’ll find when researching how solar panels, wiring, and batteries work.
- Conductor: Conductors are the materials, usually electrical wire, that transmit energy from the solar panels into your power system.
- Deep Cycle Batteries: We utilize the latest generation of deep cycle batteries to ensure maximum efficiency. These batteries contain large plates that support several cycles between discharge and full capacity.
- Photovoltaic Panel: A device that converts light into electricity. The panel is composed of small photovoltaic semiconductor cells made from silicon, cadmium, telluride, boron and other advanced materials. The panels include several layers of crystals, conductors, and anti-reflective materials to ensure efficiency. Today’s panels can last up to 30 years with proper care and maintenance.
- Power Conditioning Equipment: This is a collective term referencing the components of your solar power system that work together to convert photovoltaic energy into a state that is suitable for use. This usually includes an inverter, converter, battery, charge regulator and a blocking diode.
- Inverter: This device converts the direct current into alternating current which can be used as power.
- Absorber Material: This refers to the material within the photovoltaic panels (PV panels) that can absorb sunlight (described as “photons”) to be converted into energy.
- Antireflection Coating: Most PV panels include a thin coating of anti-reflective material that increases the amount of light that the panels take in.
- Boron: A chemical that’s frequently used within photovoltaic materials.
- Charge Controller: This tool is used to control the flow of electricity to and from the battery. It protects the strength of the battery over time.
- Combined Collector: This tool allows you to convert heat, in addition to light, into energy.
- Ampere Meter: This instrument is used to measure amperes (energy current) over time.
Measuring the Strength of Your Solar Energy System
Prior to your solar power installation our team will assess your site’s potential to generate energy, compared with your energy consumption needs. When designing your customized solar power system and calculating potential energy savings, you’ll see these common terms:
- Kilowatt (kW): A standard unit for measuring electrical power. This describes energy consumption at the rate of 1,000 Joules per second. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) measures kilowatts used over an hour. Your energy bill will usually show this metric and can be a good guide of what size solar power system your property requires.
- Energy Audit: This survey allows us to identify major sources of energy use within your property and redirect energy if needed.
- Full Sun: A term used to express the density of sunlight received at noon on a clear day in your region, usually measured in watts per square meter.
- Grid-Connected System: Most of our commercial and residential clients have grid-connected systems. This means that they generate their own energy via solar panels while also accessing energy from the grid when solar power is not available. An “off-the-grid” system does not give or take energy from the local power grid.
- Annual Solar Savings: The amount of savings (in dollars) that you’ll enjoy relative to the energy requirements of your property. This takes into account the total size of your system versus your needs and local energy rates.
- Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE): This metric is commonly used to determine the savings of your solar power system over its 20-30 year lifetime. It factors the cost of materials, installation, inflation, and savings over time.
- Downtime: During your inspection we will estimate your system’s “downtime”, or the hours per year in which your system may not be able to provide sufficient energy.
- Battery Capacity: Batteries can be rated for their capacity, or the maximum total electrical charge that they can hold. The latest generation of deep cycle batteries have a high capacity over a long life time.
- Activated Battery Shelf Life: Defines how long a charged battery can be stored before its capacity falls to an insufficient level.
- Battery Life Cycle: This number rates how many times a battery can be discharged before falling under its normal capacity.
- Life Cycle Cost: This metric describes the estimated cost of owning and operating a photovoltaic system for the period of its useful life.
- Load Forecast: We use a load forecast to predict your future energy demand. This may be expressed in daily, weekly, or annual units depending on your system. Large appliances, production schedules, air conditioning, and other operational factors will affect the load forecast.
- Charge Activation Voltage: Defines the voltage at which the charge controller will activate in order to protect the battery.
- Angle of Incidence: We use this measurement when installing your solar panels. This angle measures the angle of how the sun rays hit the surface.
- Cloud Enhancement: During your solar power estimate we’ll discuss cloud enhancement, or how solar intensity can be increased by reflection from the weather in your region.
- I-V Curve: We use the I-V curve graph to show the level of current versus the voltage provided by a photovoltaic panel within different conditions. This curve characterizes the level of performance of your overall solar power system.
- Input Voltage: This number measures the total power required to keep all of the components at an efficient, operational level.
- National Electrical Code (NEC): The NEC specifies the guidelines and regulations for all electrical installations, including solar power systems. This code contains in-depth articles on photovoltaic panels, inverters, grid-connected systems and off-grid installations.