Solar Terms You Need to Know if You Have Solar Panels

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Solar power has seen a significant spike in popularity and demand in recent years. From environmental preservation to fluctuating energy costs, many people are shifting to solar energy. Good thing, too, as it can reduce or cut your reliance on traditional energy sources.

For this reason, more and more people are investing in solar panels. It puts the layman in a quandary, though. Understanding how solar systems work, whether on a large or small scale, often hinges on proper terminology.

Do you want to learn more about solar terms? If so, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about some standard solar terms!

Solar Energy

Solar energy is a form of renewable energy that comes from the sun and is converted into electricity. Solar panels are the most common way to capture and use this energy, as they work by converting sunlight into electricity.

Solar Flare

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation originating from the sun’s surface and by the sudden release of magnetic energy. The intensity of a solar flare will depend on the size and type of plasma forming the flare.

Solar Wind

It is a constant flow of charged particles from the sun originating from its outermost layers. The solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetic fields, causing auroras and space weather disturbances.

Solar Irradiance

It is the amount of solar radiation the sun receives per square meter of surface area. A term related to solar irradiance is peak sun hours, which measure how much energy per square meter an area can expect when conditions are ideal. A peak sun hour equals one hour of whole sun intensity radiation.

Kilowatt (kW)

The terms related to kilowatt (kW) include peak kilowatt (kWp) and kilowatt-hour (kWh). kWp is the energy rate a single photovoltaic (PV) module or solar panel can generate in one hour under optimal light conditions. kWh is the energy a PV system can produce over one hour.

kW is an international standard unit that measures electrical power equal to 1,000 watts—used to calculate energy consumption and the energy output of solar panels. By combining kWp and kWh, users can determine solar panel efficiency, understand their energy consumption and receive accurate bills from their solar companies.

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency measures how effectively a solar panel can convert sunlight into electrical power. It is usually calculated as the ratio of the electric power out of the solar panel to the power of the sunlight absorbed by a panel. Generally, high-quality solar panels have 15-20% efficiency ratings, so the higher the efficiency, the more power can be produced from a single panel.

Solar panel efficiency is determined by its technology, materials, and physical size and can vary depending on the production line of the different manufacturers. But, it can vary greatly, so customers must always be aware of the efficiency ratings of the solar panel they are interested in.

Solar Insolation

It is the amount of solar radiation that an area receives from the sun and is used in the calculation of the power output of a solar panel. It is measured in kWh/m2 per day and known as ‘sunshine hours.’ As sunlight passes through Earth’s atmosphere, its intensity is reduced, but it can still be measured and used to predict the energy generated from a solar array.

In areas with high solar insolation, solar power generation potential is maximized. Locations near the equator or high elevation levels are ideal for solar power generation. Because different regions receive different amounts of solar insolation, local panels or installing panels in optimal locations can help increase the power output.

Solar Batteries

Solar batteries are a crucial component in the PV system as they store the electricity until needed. The grid or generator can also charge them in case of low sunlight.

They come in many different varieties, with some being multi-faceted and able to store, release, and convert energy from various sources. They also ensure steady electricity is available during rainy or cloudy days.

Solar Installers

Solar Installers are professionals that provide customers with the tools, equipment, and know-how to install solar panels onto their property. A solar installer always takes the utmost care to properly install and maintain your solar system to continue providing cost-effective and reliable long-term power. You can learn more from Blue Raven Solar for your home solar system needs.

Photovoltaic Solar

A photovoltaic solar system, or PV, is a type of solar energy system that turns sunlight into electrical energy. This energy is fed back into the grid and can be used as an alternative energy source.

It utilizes solar panels to capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. Photovoltaic systems are commonly mounted atop a roof or other structure. It is capable of capturing sun radiation from various angles.

Thermal Solar

Thermal solar is a type of solar power technology that uses heat rather than electricity to generate power. Thermal solar systems usually comprise highly efficient solar collectors, thermal insulation material, and circulation pumps. It can be used to heat spaces or as a source of hot water and is an excellent option for those looking to harness renewable power.

Solar Panels or Modules

Solar panels, or solar modules, are photovoltaic devices that convert the sun’s radiation into direct electric current. They are used to drive electrical devices directly or to charge batteries. They are the main elements of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

Solar modules consist of many solar cells, which can be made from either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film solar materials. These cells are connected and placed in an aluminum frame to be further protected from the elements. They convert sunlight into DC electricity which is then used to power homes and businesses in various applications.

Solar Shingles or Tiles

Solar shingles/tiles (or solar roofing/cladding) are innovative photovoltaic materials and systems designed for buildings with flat roofs. Solar shingles can be produced in modules or as a single piece. They can also be built using standard or newly developed photovoltaic technology.

They are also referred to as ‘building-integrated photovoltaic modules,’ and they can incorporate into the design and structure of your home. As they are more significant than individual solar panels, they can generate more power and, in some cases, over eight times more than traditional panels.

Balance of System

Balance of system (BOS) is the component of a solar system other than the solar panels. It includes the inverter, racking, wiring, safety equipment, metering, and further details. With the installation of solar panels, it is vital to know that these BOS components must be integrated and functioning correctly for the solar system to produce energy.

Solar Array

It is a collection of solar panels connected to double or even triple the amount of power the array can generate. This grouping of panels is the foundation of most solar systems, from small residential rooftop arrays to large solar farms.

Arrays can be either synchronous (generating electricity at the same time) or asynchronous (generating it at different times). They can also be wired in series, parallel, or both to optimize the output. They are often combined with solar trackers, inverters, and other components to create an optimal energy system.

Solar Mount

A solar mount is a system that attaches solar panels to a roof or other surface. The mount is often a steel railing, typically galvanized and powder coated for longevity, which connects to a mounting bracket. The mounting bracket is then attached to the solar panel frames and is used to secure them firmly to the surface.

Standard solar mounts are flush, roof ground, roof gap, pole, and open rack. Flush mounts are the lowest profile mount and are ideal for roofs with low slopes.

Roof ground mounts are perfect for flat roofs, while roof gap mounts need a gap between the roof and the mounting system, typically for more excellent stability. Pole mounts are often used when roofs are unavailable, while open rack mounts are used in commercial applications.

Direct Current Power

Solar panels produce a type of energy known as direct current (DC) power. It contrasts with the grid’s alternating current (AC) power.

Most commonly, when people generate electricity from their solar panels, the DC is converted into AC power at the inverter. From here, it can be used to power appliances. Some solar panel systems also have a DC power connection point for storing unprocessed electricity in batteries for later use.

Alternating Current Power

AC (Alternating Current) power is what your utility company delivers to your home and is created by spinning wind turbine blades or a rotating natural gas turbine. This AC power is then converted to DC (Direct Current) power, used by solar photovoltaic systems such as solar panels. So, it is critical to understand the differences between AC and DC power to maximize the efficiency of your solar panels.

Inverter

Solar panels are great for capturing energy from the sun, but what do you do with them? An inverter is the key to using the power from the solar panels. Inverters convert the energy from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) for household electricity.

Inverters are the engine of a solar panel system and have an essential role in determining the system’s efficiency. Two of the most common terms related to inverters are Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Maximum Power Output (MPO).

MPPT tracks the panel’s maximum power output to maximize efficiency. MPO is the inverter’s maximum output, which sets the total power sent into the grid.

Inverters also play an essential role in providing safety features, such as arc detection, over-voltage protection, under-voltage protection, and temperature sensing. These safety features offer extra protection for the solar panel system and homeowners.

System Size

System size is typically measured in kilowatts (kW) and refers to a solar energy system’s total rated power output. It shows how much of the total energy requirements of a building or structure are met through solar power. It is also instrumental in helping to determine the total costs involved in a solar project and the payback period of such an investment.

Sun Hours and Shading

Sun hours are the direct sunlight that shines on a home’s solar array over a day. This number is essential when deciding on solar system size and efficiency, as solar panels need direct sunlight for optimal output.

Shading is the obstructive coverage over the panels’ surface during certain times of day or year. If many trees, buildings, or other structures cause shading over the panels.

It may decrease the amount of electricity the panels can produce. Solar panels must receive steady sunlight with minimal shading for optimal efficiency.

Net Metering

It refers to offsetting electricity usage from the utility with solar energy production. When your solar system produces more energy than you use, the extra is sent back onto the grid. Your utility will credit you for the excess energy production.

It is known as net metering, as you’re essentially netting out the energy you use. Without it, homeowners must invest in expensive energy storage systems to store excess solar energy and avoid buying power when the sun isn’t shining.

It allows homeowners to avoid this expense and return the extra energy to the grid. Understanding the rules and regulations of net metering in your state is vital before investing in solar panels.

Feed-in Tariff Rates

Your local government sets this rate, determining how much money you will get for any electricity produced by your panels. The higher the rate, the more money you will receive for each kilowatt-hour of electricity your solar panels generate. Also, the Feed-in Tariff scheme sets the conditions you must meet to be eligible for the scheme, and the rate is adjusted to account for seasonal factors.

Familiarize Yourself With These Solar Terms

Understanding the many solar terms, such as those in this article, is crucial for any solar consumer. To benefit from and understand how to use solar energy efficiently, consider scheduling an appointment with a local solar specialist to gain further knowledge and ensure you have the right solar system for your home.

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