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Solar Glossary

Solar Glossary

Solar TermDefinition
AGM (Adsorbed Glass Mat)Type of battery construction which uses saturated adsorbant glass mats instead of liquid or gelled electrolyte; typically more reliable compared to flooded (liquid), but also more expensive.
Alternating current (AC)An electrical current that continually reverses direction of flow; powers electronic devices or appliances in your home.
AlternatorA device for producing alternating current electricity.
Amorphous siliconA thin-film solar PV cell material with a glassy structure instead of crystalline structure.
Ampere (A) or ampUnit of electric current; flow of electrons.
ArrayA number of solar modules connected together in a single structure.
Array currentElectrical current output of a PV array when exposed to sunlight.
BatterySystem in which stored chemical energy is converted directly into electrical energy.
Battery capacityThe total number of ampere-hours (Ah) that a fully charged battery can output.
Battery cellIndividual unit of a battery that can store electrical energy; capable of furnishing a current to an external load.
Battery chargerDevice used to charge a battery by converting AC voltage to DC voltage.
Battery cycle lifeThe number of times a battery can undergo a cycle of discharge and recharge before failing.
Battery self-dischargeEnergy loss by a battery that is not under load.
CapacityMaximum volume (of c-Si or TF cells) that could be produced at a given time.
CellBasic unit of a PV module or battery; contains electrodes and electrolyte in a battery, to produce electricity.
Cell efficiencyRatio of electrical energy produced by a photovoltaic cell (under full sun conditions) to the energy from sunlight falling upon the photovoltaic cell.
ChargeProcess of inputting electrical energy to a battery.
Charge controllerA component that controls the flow of current to and from the battery subsystem to protect it from overcharge and over discharge; necessary to guarantee that the battery gets maximum state of charge and longest life; may also monitor system performance and provide system protection; also called regulators.
Charge rateMeasure of current used to charge a battery as a proportion of its capacity.
Crystalline siliconType of PV cell material made from a single crystal or polycrystalline ingot of silicon.
CurrentFlow of electric charge in a conductor between two points having a difference in electrical potential (voltage) and is measured in Amps.
Deep cycle batteryBattery designed to regularly discharge 80% of its capacity before recharging.
Direct radiationLight that has traveled in a straight path from the sun (also referred to as beam radiation). An object in the path of direct radiation casts a shadow on a clear day.
DischargeWithdrawal of electrical energy from a battery.
DistributorA wholesaler of PV products.
EfficiencyThe ratio of output power or energy to input power or energy, expressed as a percentage.
Electric currentThe flow of electrons measured in Amps.
Electrical gridA network for electricity distribution across a large area.
ElectricityThe movement of electrons (a sub-atomic particle), produced by a voltage, through a conductor.
ElectrodeAn electrically conductive material forming part of an electrical device. Often used to lead current into or out of a liquid or gas. In a battery, the electrodes are also known as plates.
EnergyPower consumed multiplied by the duration of use. For example, 1000 Watts used for four hours is 4000 Watt hours.
Energy densityThe ratio of the energy available from an energy storage device such as a battery to its volume (Wh/m3) or weight (Wh/kg).
Fixed tilt arrayA solar PV array set at a fixed angle to the horizontal.
Flooded cell batteryA form of rechargeable battery in which the plates are completely immersed in a liquid electrolyte. Most cars use flooded cell batteries. Flooded cell batteries are the most commonly used type for independent and remote area power supplies.
Gel-type batteryLead-acid battery in which the electrolyte is immobilized in a gel. Usually used for mobile installations and when batteries will be subject to high levels of shock or vibration.
GeneratorA mechanical device used to produce DC electricity. Power is produced by coils of wire passing through magnetic fields inside the generator. Most alternating current generating sets are also referred to as generators.
GridAn electrical utility distribution network.
Grid-connectedAn energy producing system connected to the utility transmission grid. Also called Grid-tied.
High voltage disconnectVoltage at which the charge controller will disconnect the array to prevent overcharging the batteries.
Incentive programsIncentive program the project is entitled to.
Install dateRefers to manufacturing equipment installation timing for a fab or a fab phase.
InstallerMarkets and customizes PV systems for installation.
InverterAn inverter converts DC power from the PV array/battery to AC power. Used either for stand-alone systems or grid-connected systems.
IrradianceThe solar power incident on a surface, usually expressed in kilowatts per square meter. Irradiance multiplied by time gives insolation.
Kilowatt(kW)A unit of electrical power equal to 1000 Watts.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh)A unit that describes the amount of energy that derives from a power of 1000 Watts acting over a period of 1 hour. 1 kWh equals 3600 kJ.
kWh OutputEstimated first year kilowatt hour output of the PV system. Often the output on which the PPA price is paid.
Liquid electrolyte batteryA battery containing a liquid solution of an electrolyte in a solvent (e.g. sulfuric acid in water). Also called a flooded battery because the plates are covered with the electrolyte solution.
Maintenance free batteryA sealed battery to which water cannot be added to maintain the level of the
Maximum power point tracker (MPPT)A power conditioning unit that automatically operates the PV generator at its MPP under all conditions. An MPPT will typically increase power delivered to the system by 10% to 40%, depending on climate conditions and battery state of charge.
Megawatt (MW)A measurement of power equal to one million Watts.
Megawatt-hour (MWh)A measurement of power with respect to time (i.e. energy). One megawatt-hour is equal to one megawatt being used for a period of one hour, or one kilowatt being used for 1000 hours.
Module supplierSuppliers of modules.
Module typeType of modules – c-Si:multi/mono; TF:a-Si/CdTe/CIGS; CPV.
Monocrystalline solar cellA form of solar cell made from a thin slice of a single large crystal of silicon.
MulticrystallineA material that has solidified at a rate such that many small crystals (crystallites) form. The atoms within a single crystallite are symmetrically arranged with a particular orientation, whereas the crystallites themselves are differently oriented. The multitude of grain boundaries in the material (between the crystallites) reduce the cell efficiency. Multicrystalline is also referred to as polycrystalline.
Off-grid applicationsuse independent, or stand-alone, power generation systems, normally with a form of storage such as batteries, to provide a continuous power capability. They include rural applications where the system may power lighting, TV and radio, and industrial applications such as telecommunications, navigation aids and cathodic protection systems.
On-grid applicationsApplication characterized by connection of the PV system to the main electricity supply such that excess energy generated by the system can be exported to the grid, and electricity can be drawn from the grid in times of a shortfall in PV output, or to meet high daytime loads.
OverchargeApplying current to a fully charged battery, which can damage the battery.
PanelUsed interchangeably with “module”.
Parallel connectedA method of connection in which positive terminals are connected together and negative terminals are connected together. Current output adds and voltage remains the same.
Peak sun hoursThe equivalent number of hours per day when solar irradiance averages 1000 W/m2.
Photovoltaic (PV)Any device which produces free electrons when exposed to light.
Photovoltaic (PV) arrayA number of PV modules connected together in a single structure.
Photovoltaic (PV) cellThe smallest discrete element in a PV module that performs the conversion of light into electrical energy to produce a DC current and voltage.
Photovoltaic (PV) moduleA single assembly of solar cells and ancillary parts, such as interconnections, terminals, (and protective devices such as diodes) intended to generate DC power under un-concentrated sunlight. The structural (load carrying) member of a module can either be the top layer (superstrate) or the back layer (substrate). [UL 1703]
Photovoltaic (PV) panelTerm often used interchangeably with PV module (especially in single module systems).
Photovoltaic cellThe semiconductor device that converts solar irradiance (light) into DC electricity.
Polycrystalline cellA wafer of silicon with a multi-grained structure. All grains have the same atomic crystal lattice, however, each grain has a unique orientation in space thereby producing a unique reflection of light.
Polycrystalline siliconA material used to make solar PV cells which consists of many crystals, compared to single crystal silicon.
PowerThe rate of doing work. Expressed as Watts (W). For example, a generator rated at 800 watts can provide that amount of power continuously. 1 Watt = 1 joule/sec.
PVAbbreviation for photovoltaics.
PV arrayTwo or more photovoltaic panels wired in series and or parallel.
PV componentsThe individual parts of a PV system. Includes batteries, inverters, regulators, wiring.
PV systemAll the parts in combination required to generate solar electricity.
Renewable energyEnergy that is produced from a renewable source.
Series connectedA method of connection in which the positive terminal of one device is connected to the negative terminal of another. The voltages add and the current is limited to the least of any device in the string.
Silicon (Si)A chemical element with atomic number 14, a dark gray semi-metal. Occurs in a wide range of silicate minerals and makes up approximately 28% of the earth’s crust (by weight). Silicon has a face-centered cubic lattice structure like diamond. The most common semiconductor material used in making PV cells either traditionally in its crystalline form or more recently as an amorphous thin film.
Solar energyEnergy from the sun.
Solar moduleA device used to convert light from the sun directly into DC electricity by using the photovoltaic effect. Usually made of multiple solar cells bonded between glass and a backing material. A typical solar module has 100 Watts of power output (but module powers can range from 1 Watt to 300 Watts) and dimensions of 2 feet by 4 feet.
Solar powerElectricity generated by conversion of sunlight, either directly through the use of photovoltaic panels, or indirectly through solar-thermal processes.
Stand-alone (PV system)A solar PV system that operates without connection to a grid supplying electricity.
StorageStoring energy in a battery or battery stack. In water pumping, storage can be achieved by pumping water to a storage tank.
Storage densityThe capacity of a battery, in amp-hours compared to its weight. Measured in Watt-hours per kilogram.
Thin filmA layer of semiconductor material, a few microns or less in thickness, used to make photovoltaic cells. Examples are copper indium diselenide, cadmium telluride, gallium arsenide, and amorphous silicon.
TrackerAny device used to direct a PV array towards the sun.
Tracking arrayA PV array that is moved to follow the path of the sun in order to maintain the maximum incident solar radiation on its surface. The two most common methods are single-axis tracking in which the array tracks the sun from east to west, and two-axis tracking in which the array points directly at the sun all the time. Two-axis tracking arrays capture the maximum possible daily energy. Typically, a single axis tracker will give 15% to 25% more power per day, and dual axis tracking will add a further 5%.
Utility-interactive inverterAn inverter that can operate only when connected to the utility grid supply and an output voltage frequency fully synchronized with the utility power.
VoltThe unit of electric potential and potential difference. The amount of work done per unit charge in moving a charge from one place to another. The potential difference across a resistance of 1 Ohm when a current of 1 Amp is flowing.
VoltageUnit of measurement for the electrical pressure of electricity. Measured in Volts (V).
Voltage dropThe voltage lost along a length of wire or conductor due to the resistance of that conductor. Also applies to resistors. The voltage drop is calculated by using Ohm’s Law.
Voltage regulatorA device that controls the operating voltage of a photovoltaic array.
Watt (W)The unit of electrical power commonly used to define the electricity consumption of an appliance. The power developed when a current of one ampere flows through a potential difference of one volt; 1/746 of a horsepower. 1 Watt = 1 Joule.
Watt hour (Wh)A unit of energy equal to one Watt of power being used for one hour.
Watt/kilowatt/megawatt/gigawattUnits of electrical power (that is, the rate at which electrical energy is generated) increasing in scale by a factor of 1000.
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