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Solar Terminology 101

Jessica PirroMarch 12, 20202420

So you want to get a solar panel installation, it’s time to do your research! Some people might find solar terminology to be a bit confusing, which is understandable. If you’re relatively new to the solar power industry you might come across some roadblocks that come to the terminology that is used. Here’s your key to decode just what the heck everyone is talking about.

Solar Terminology 101

The Efficiency of a Solar Panel

When researching solar panels you are going to come across efficiency. The efficiency represents exactly how well a solar panel is going to convert sunlight into solar power. The majority of solar panels are going to have 14 to 16 percent efficiency, and the high-efficiency solar panels have an efficiency of just above 20 percent.

The Balance of System (BOS)

This is something that you are going to your solar installer mention. It may refer to nearly anything in the solar power system - the wiring, nuts, bolts, and more. This is going to be a term that is to covers all of the parts of the solar power system.

The Electrical Grid

Most people are going to refer to this as the “the grid”, this is going to be the term where a system delivers electricity from suppliers to the consumers. The electrical grids are going to be made up of generating stations, transmission lines, and distribution lines. Generating stations produce electrical power, which carries high-voltage transmission lines to demand centers. Distribution lines will then move the electricity from the demand centers to individual customers.

The Federal Investment Tax Credit

The federal ITC is commonly referred to as the solar tax credit, and the ITC effectively reduces the total cost of your solar power system by 26% by crediting your federal taxes. This is regarded as the most significant financial solar incentive in the United States.

Net Metering

This is going to be the practice that credits you for all of the excess electricity that is generated by your solar power system, you will then be able to draw from the grid when your solar panels aren’t going to produce enough solar electricity to match your use. When it comes to net metering, you will effectively use the electrical grid and it will “store” the excess solar electricity to be used at a later time.

Solar Inverter

A solar inverter is going to convert the direct current (DC) solar power to alternating current (AC) solar electricity, regardless if its for individual solar panels or individual solar panels or grid-connected solar panel installations. DC solar power that is produced by a solar panel installation needs to be converted to AC solar electricity, then it can be used for all of your household needs. Sans the solar inverter, the solar energy that your solar panels can’t easily be put to use. There’s going to be three basic kinds of solar inverters:

- Microinverters. These are installed in individual solar panels and are going to be ideal for small solar power systems.

- String Solar Inverters. These are going to be ideal for large residential or smaller commercial solar panel installations.

- Central Solar Inverters. These solar inverters are going to be ideal for large-scale solar power systems such as solar farms.

Off-Grid Solar Power Systems

This is going to be when the solar power system is completely disconnected from the electricity grid, this is going to mean that you won’t any access to the utility-generated electricity. The homes that go off the grid are going to need to generate all of their solar electricity by the solar power system.

National Electrical Code (NEC)

The NEC, which is also known as NFPA 70, is a publication from the National Fire Protection Association that provides the guidelines for all of the matter of electrical installation in the United States. In article 690, it details the specific installation costs for solar power systems, should be consulted for all solar panel installations. The local and state guidelines might qualify some NEC suggestions and might also be considered before solar panel installation of any solar power systems.

Solar Farm

A solar farm will often be referred to as a solar ranch, solar field, or solar park. These solar farms will span between an acre and 100 acres of solar panels, a solar farm allows a community to reap the benefits of a solar power system without purchasing, installing, or maintaining individual solar power systems. Solar farms which normally install solar panels on towers that can track the sun to produce a higher energy output each day, when compared to a typical residential solar panel installation.

Time of Use

Time of use (TOU) is a certain type of rate-varying use (RVU) pricing: it breaks up the 24-hour day into three or four pre-defined time blocks, that are not based on actual usage at those specific times. This pricing structure is going to remain fixed daily over seasons. TOU pricing encourages users to shift their electricity consumption to certain time blocks where demand is going to be low and the costs are cheaper.

Solar Array

A solar array is going to be a collection of solar panels that are wired together to create the desired solar power output. The typical residential solar array consists of 20-25 solar panels to cover 100% of its energy consumption.

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