Solar Glossary

Learning about solar is like learning a new language.

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Our glossary for solar power and battery storage will help you understand commonly used industry terms, policies and organisations.

Alternating current (AC)

Electrical current in which the direction of the flow of electrons changes back and forth at regular intervals. The electricity grid and most everyday household appliances use alternating current (AC).

Array

Collection of connected solar panels that work together. Common household arrays connect 20-30 panels. Commercial arrays connect hundreds of solar panels while solar farms connect thousands of solar panels.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

Australian Renewable Energy Agency was established by the Australian federal government to make renewable energy solutions more affordable and accessible. Their objective is to increase the amount of clean, renewable energy used in Australia.

Battery

Rechargeable battery connecting a solar cell with battery power storage. It rations excess power to be used to offset peak or night time use. It can only be charged with direct current. Battery storage capacity is measured in KWh.

Battery cycle life

Number of times a rechargeable battery can go through a full charge discharge cycle. To extend battery life, most home energy storage systems don’t discharge 100 percent but to a lower discharge level.

Capacity

Capacity of a solar power system is its output in optimal circumstances. Capacity is measured in Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). 1kW = 1000W. Capacity can also refer to the size of a system. For example, a 6.6 kW system.

Direct current (DC)

Electrical current flowing consistently in the same direction.  Solar panels produce direct current which must be converted into alternating current by an inverter to power your home.

Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP)

Australian Capital Territory – ActewAGL (All ACT).

New South Wales – Essential Energy (Regional NSW), Ausgrid (Northern Sydney), Endeavour Energy (Southwest of Sydney). 

Queensland – Energy Queensland (All QLD).

Northern Territory – Power and Water Corporation (All NT).

South Australia – SA Power Networks (All SA).

Tasmania – Aurora Energy (All TAS). All distribution in Tasmania

Victoria – CitiPower (Melbourne CBD), Powercor (Western VIC), Jemena (Western Melbourne), SPAusNet (Eastern VIC), United Energy (Southern Melbourne).

Western Australia – Western Power (WA South of Kalbarri), Horizon Power (Rural standalone networks).

Efficiency

Ratio of output energy to input energy expressed as a percentage. Higher efficient solar panels will convert more sunlight into electrical energy. Higher efficiency panels cost more but take up less space.

Electrical current

Flow of electricity. There are two types of electrical current. Direct current (DC) electricity flows through a conductor in one direction. Alternating current (AC) electricity rapidly flows back and forth in a conductor.

Electricity grid

Interlocked network that delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers. Generating stations within the grid produce electricity. High-voltage transmission lines carry power from generating stations to request centres and delivery lines connect individual consumers.

Energy distributors

Companies that own and conserve a distribution network, including power lines and poles, plus the natural gas pipelines that carry electricity and natural gas to residential and commercial addresses.

Energy retailers

Corporations and organisations that provide electricity and gas to residences and businesses.

Feed-in tariff

Rate paid for any unused electricity produced by a solar power system and fed back to the electricity grid.

Gigawatt (GW)

Unit of electrical power. 1GW = 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Gigawatt-hour (gWh)

Unit of electricity use over a period of time. 1,000 megawatt of electricity supplied over one hour.

Grid-connected PV system

Electricity generating solar PV system connected to the grid. Features solar panels, inverter, switchboard and electricity meter.

Gross metering

Metering arrangement where all solar electricity generated is transferred to the electricity grid via a separate meter.

Inverter

Solar inverter converts DC electricity produced by solar panels into AC electricity that powers most household appliances.

Kilowatt (kW)

Unit of electrical power. 1 KW = 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)

Unit of electricity use over a period of time. 1,000 watts of electricity supplied over one hour.

Load

Amount of electricity used by any electrical unit or appliance at any given time.

Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

Electronic converter that optimises the match between solar array and battery bank or utility grid.

Megawatt (MW)

Unit of electrical power. 1 MW = 1,000 kilowatts (KW).

Megawatt-hour (mWh)

Unit of electricity use over a period of time. 1,000 kilowatt of electricity supplied over one hour.

Meter

Device that records the movement of electricity into a residential or commercial building.

Mounting equipment

Equipment such as frames, brackets, racks and clamps used to secure PV modules and equipment to a roof or ground.

Net metering

Billing arrangement with your energy retailer that governs how you will be credited for excess renewable electricity transported to the grid.

Peak demand / peak load

Highest demand for electricity within a particular period of time. Also known as peak load.

Peak sunlight

Time of the day when the energy received from the sun is at its highest.

Photovoltaic (PV)

Technology that creates electric currents by exposing photovoltaic materials to sunlight.

Photovoltaic (PV) system / solar power system

Technology that converts energy generated from sunlight into electrical energy. A solar PV system offsets power needs, depending on the size of the system. It contains solar panels, inverter and safety switches.

Power

Rate at which energy is generated or used.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

Arrangement where a solar company pays for the installation and maintenance of a solar system to a residence or business at no upfront costs. Solar energy produced by that solar system is then charged at a lower rate.

Renewable energy

Clean energy obtained from natural, constantly replenished resources. This includes solar, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal.

Rebates

Financial incentives to subsidise the upfront cost of installing a solar power system. Rebates vary from state to state.

Renewable Energy Target (RET)

Federal government policy for least 33,000 Gigawatt-hour of Australia’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Single-phase electrical power

Most common power supply for most homes and small businesses. A single-phase switchboard has a single, slim main switch.

Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC)

Financial incentive to install solar water heaters, heat pumps or solar panels in your residence or business. The certificates are part of a federal government program called the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and vary from state to state.

Solar battery bundle

Solar power system with battery or batteries. Stored surplus power can be used to offset peak or nighttime use.

Solar cells

Silicon wafers used to make solar panels. In monocrystalline solar panels, the silicon cells are shaped like a diamond. In polycrystalline solar panels, the silicon cells are rectangular shaped.

Solar energy

Energy created from sunlight.

Solar monitoring

Real-time monitoring of solar generation and consumption, providing automatic fault and diagnosis alerts. Identifying and rectifying issues quickly can result in improvements in system performance and potential savings.

Solar panel

Module consisting of solar photovoltaic materials which turn sunlight into electricity. Usually sits on the roof of a residence or business.

Solar panel orientation

Placing solar panels in a particular direction maximises the amount of exposure to sunlight.

Solar panel tilt / pitch

Angle or tilt the panels are facing towards the sky. In Australia, the recommended angle is between 20-35° depending on location.

Solar power

Power generated by the sun. Photovoltaics adapt light into an electric current that is converted for domestic or business use.

Storage

Storing excess electricity produced by a solar system. Solar batteries are used as storage devices.

Three-phase electrical power

Power supply for homes and businesses requiring greater energy needs. A three-phase switchboard has three switches combined into one main switch.

Virtual Power Plant (VPP)

Network of decentralised, medium-scale power generating units that aggregate power generation. This enhances local power generation and allows trading or selling power on electricity markets. VPP trials and pilot programs are underway in Australia.

Watt (W)

Essential unit of electrical power used to measure the capability of solar panels and other electricity-producing devices.

B.Solar Advisor

Any other solar terms you’re unfamiliar with? Your B.Solar Advisor can help. Book phone consultation

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