Your one source energy solution ©
Some definitions of Alternative Energy terms
The percentage of electricity that is created by a solar cell as compared to the amount of energy needed to generate that electricity.
The flow of electricity between two points. Measured in amps.
Direct current (DC)
Electrical current that flows only in one direction. The most common form of electricity used in cars, boats and RVs.
Switch gear used to connect or disconnect components in a photovoltaic system.
Installed systems that are installed at or near the location where the electricity is used, as opposed to central systems that supply electricity to grids.
The ratio of active time to total time. Used to describe the operating regime of appliances or loads in photovoltaic systems.
The flow of electrical energy (electricity) in a conductor, measured in amperes.
The path followed by electricity, beginning from the generating source, continuing through the devices that use the electricity, and then traveling back to the source.
A large distribution network that delivers electricity over a wide area.
Usable power. Measured in kWh.
A process that determines how much energy you use in your house or apartment.
Fuels that are formed underground from the remains of dead plants and animals. i.e. oil, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels.
When heat from the sun becomes trapped in the Earth's atmosphere due to certain gases.
The gases responsible for trapping heat from the sun within the Earth's atmosphere. i.e. water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.
A distribution network, including towers, poles, and wires that a utility uses to deliver electricity.
Grid-connected PV system
A solar system that is tied in to the utility's network. When generating more power than necessary, the system supplies the surplus to the grid. At night, the system draws power from the grid.
The frequency of electrical current described in cycles per second, i.e. Appliances in the United States use 60 HZ.
A solar electric or photovoltaic system that includes other sources of electricity generation, such as wind or diesel generators.
An inverter converts the electricity generated from a solar system from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for use in the home.
The point on a solar module where it connects, or is strung, to other solar modules.
A unit of electrical power, one thousand watts.
One thousand watts acting over a period of one hour. The kWh is a unit of energy.
Anything that is connected to an electrical circuit and draws power from that circuit. Usually expressed in terms of amperes or watts in reference to electricity.
One million watts; 1,000 kilowatts.
see photovoltaic module
National Electrical Code (NEC)
The U.S. minimum inspection requirements for all types of electrical installations, including solar systems.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A national lab that concentrates on studying and developing renewable energy sources.
A practice used in conjunction with a solar electric system where your electric meter tracks your net power usage, spinning forward when you use electricity from the utility, and spinning backward when your system is generating more electricity than you need.
A term used to describe the direction that a solar module faces. The two components of orientation are the tilt angle (the angle the panel makes from the horizontal) and the aspect angle (the angle the panel makes from North).
A term used to describe a solar module.
Passive solar home
A house that utilizes part of the building as a solar collector, as opposed to active solar, such as PV.
The largest amount of electricity being used at any one point during the day.
A unit used to rate the performance of solar cells, modules, or arrays; the maximum nominal output of a photovoltaic device, in watts (Wp) under standardized test conditions, usually 1,000 watts per square meter of sunlight with other conditions, such as temperature specified.
The conversion of light into electricity. Photo means light, voltaic means electric.
Photovoltaic (PV) Effect
The phenomenon that occurs when photons, the "particles" in a beam of light, knock electrons loose from the atoms they strike. When this property of light is combined with the properties of semiconductors, electrons flow in one direction across a junction, setting up a voltage. With the addition of circuitry, current will flow and electric power will be available.
An interconnected system of solar modules that function as a single electricity-producing unit.
Made from silicon, this is the basic unit of a solar module that collects the sun's energy.
The layers of glass, plastic, and silicon cells framed in metal, which collect the sun's energy.
A complete set of components that converts sunlight into usable electricity.
Abbreviation for photovoltaic.
Nominal power output of an inverter; some units cannot produce rated power continuously.
A material that has an electrical conductivity in between that of a metal and an insulator. Typical semiconductors for PV cells include silicon, gallium arsenide, copper indium diselenide, and cadmium elluride.
A chemical element that is the most common semiconductor material used in making PV cells.
see photovoltaic cell
Energy from the sun.
see photovoltaic module
Electricity generated from sunlight.
A solar system that operates without connection to a grid or another supply of electricity. A battery bank stores unused daylight production for nighttime power. Commonly used in remote regions such as mountains, ocean platforms or communication towers.
A solar PV module constructed with sequential layers of thin film semiconductor materials usually only micrometers thick. Currently, thin-film technologies account for around 12 percent of all solar modules sold worldwide. This share is expected to increase, since thin-film technologies represent a potential route to lower costs.
The angle of inclination of a module measured from the horizontal.
The measurement of the force given the electrons in an electric circuit.
The unit of electric power done in a unit of time. One ampere of current flowing at a potential of one volt produces one watt of power.
A unit of energy equal to one watt of power being used for one hour.