Glossary of Solar Terms
AC: Alternating current. Describes when an electrical current repeatedly reverses direction in a circuit. Almost all household appliances use AC electricity.
Breaker box: The point at which electricity is received and distributed throughout a building. Individual circuits can be enabled and disabled here.
DC: Direct current. Describes when electricity flows in one direction, from the positive part of the circuit to the negative part. Solar panels produce DC electricity.
Electrical grid: Sometimes referred to simply as “the grid,” this is the network of power generation plants (including home solar systems) and transmission lines that provides electricity to almost every city and town in the country.
Electrical panel: A breaker box.
Inverter: A device that transforms DC electricity into AC and vice versa.
Kilowatt (kW): 1,000 Watts, and the standard measurement of size for a solar electric system.
Kilowatt-hours (kWh): The measurement of energy consumption used on your electricity bills. 1 kWh of consumption is equivalent to running a 1,000-Watt appliance for one hour.
Net metering: An arrangement with your local electrical utility to base your bill on the difference between the amount of electricity your home takes from the grid and the amount your solar system adds to it.
Photon: The basic unit of light and all electromagnetic radiation.
Photovoltaic array: Multiple photovoltaic modules wired together for the purpose of producing large amounts of electricity.
Photovoltaic cell: A small electric field made of semiconductor material and capable of using photovoltaics to create an electrical current.
Photovoltaic module: A group of photovoltaic cells electrically connected and mounted in a frame.
Photovoltaics: The process through which certain materials convert sunlight into DC electricity.
Power purchase agreement: An arrangement where instead of buying a solar electric system, the customer allows one to be installed on their property and then purchases the power from it, plus a low monthly fee. Our power purchase agreement is called the PowerSavings Plan.
PowerSavings Plan™: The easiest, most affordable way to go solar. We build a system at your house and provide its maintenance and repairs so you can enjoy cheaper, cleaner power with no worries.
PPA: A power purchase agreement.
PV: The word “photovoltaic” abbreviated.
Solar array: A photovoltaic array.
Solar cell: A photovoltaic cell.
Solar electricity: Electricity derived from sunlight via photovoltaics.
Solar energy: Light and heat radiated by the sun.
Solar panel: A photovoltaic module.
Solar pv: Solar photovoltaics – the conversion of sunlight into DC electricity, and the kind of “solar power” referred to throughout this website (not to be confused with solar thermal energy, often used in water heating systems).
Utility: The organization, municipality or corporation that produces the electricity you would normally use without the aid of solar panels.
Watt: The basic unit of power. Calculated as (volts) x (amps).