Glossary of Terms

Solar Energy: Glossary of Terms

Everything You Need to Know About Solar Energy

While there's a lot to like about solar power systems, much of alternative energy is new or unfamiliar to many. It doesn't have to be complicated or confusing, especially if you understand the popular terms used in the alternative energy industry.
Half the battle of learning about the solar energy industry is understanding the vocabulary. Whether you're just getting started or you need a refresher, we hope our guide can help you gain a better understanding of solar energy and the benefits it can offer.


  • Solar Power: the electricity that comes from harnessing the energy from the sun. The power is generated directly using solar panels, which collects the energy from the sun and converts it into electricity.

  • Solar Array: Since an array is a collection, in the solar power industry, it means multiple solar panels connected to harvest the solar energy from the sun.

  • Alternative Energy (aka renewable energy): The first term in the solar panel vocabulary words is alternative energy. The term is used to stand for the energy that comes from sources that bring minimal or no harmful causes to the environment. The sources for this kind of energy are usually natural and renewable.

  • Solar Efficiency: the percentage of sunlight that the panels are able convert into electricity out of the amount of sunlight they receive. The efficiency of most solar panels in today's market ranges from 15% to 24%.

  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh): the standard unit for measuring electrical power.

  • Photovoltaic (PV): technology that helps to convert sunlight light into electrical power via semiconducting materials that absorb energy from the sun (ie: solar panels)

  • Zero net energy (aka net zero energy): a term to describe homes or buildings that generate as much energy as they consume, usually through a combination of solar power and green building techniques.

  • Grid-Connected System: a solar system connected to an electrical grid. It enables people in areas with minimum sunlight and those who cannot generate sufficient energy to still receive the full benefits of solar.

  • Ground-Mounted Solar: an array of solar panels which are installed on the ground or land, typically reserved for utility-scale and large-scale solar projects, such as power plants

  • Electrical/Electric/Utility Grid: a series of an interconnected network which helps deliver electricity to the final consumer, made of up various components, including.

    • Power stations that produce the electricity

    • Electrical substations responsible for stepping up the voltage for transmission, or stepping it down for distribution

    • High-voltage transmission lines which transport power from its sources to the demand-centers

    • Distribution lines for connecting individual customers

  • Inverter: the part of a solar power system that converts the direct current (DC) that the solar panels generate into alternating current (AC) that homes use.

  • Net Metering: put simply, it is the process of balancing power. A grid-connected system sends any surplus energy to the grid for redistribution.

  • Peak Sun Hours: the quality of the sunlight the solar panels absorb, rather than the length of time the panels are exposed to daylight. They are the hours of the day, which the sunlight intensity is 1,000 watts for every square meter.

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