Solar Glossary of Key Terms

There are many unique and technical terms used in the solar power industry.

Definitions for some of these terms can be found below:

A.C. Power  A type of electrical current powering household and business appliances.

Appliance Controller  An additional component you can add to a grid connect system.  It allows you to select appliances you want to be automatically switched on when the sun is out.  For example, you can control when the element in your hot water cylinder is turned on.  The appliance controller will monitor the amount of solar power being produced then turn the appliance on when the there is excess solar power.  You also have the option to set the appliance to run when excess solar power is more likely to be produced, such as mid morning.

Azimuth Another term for the degree the solar panels are being tilted to collect solar rays. A 0° azimuth is when solar panels are perfectly horizontal.

Balance of system  Normally refers to all other components minus the solar panels and inverter. Therefore, it is the mounting system, wiring, conduit, switches, labels and any other hardware required for the solar power system set up.

Batteries Deep cycle batteries are required for off-grid solar power systems and grid connect systems with battery back up. The main types of batteries used are gel, lead-acid and AGM batteries. New batteries on the market include lithium-ion and sodium-ion.

Battery Cycle Life Amount of times a battery can be discharged and recharged during the expected lifespan of a battery.

D.C. Power  A type of electrical current produced by solar panels, which is then converted into A.C. Power

Inverter A solar power system uses this device to convert DC electricity from solar panels into AC electricity, which can then be used by most electrical appliances.

Kilowatt hour (kWh)  A measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of one thousand watts for one hour. I.e. using a 2000-watt heater for an hour is 2-kilowatt hours.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels Panels with solar cells, made up with a single silicon crystal.

Net metering  Can be arranged with your electricity retailer, whereby the retailer will measure how much power you consumed (imported) vs. how much solar power you exported to the grid. With a net metering arrangement, your power bill at the end of the month will have money owing to the electricity retailer, or you will have a credit.

Orientation  The direction that the solar panels are titled towards, i.e. north, east or west.

Photovoltaic (PV)  A material that creates an electrical current when exposed to sunlight.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels  Solar panels with solar cells, made up of a number of silicon crystal ingots. 

Solar Array Any number of solar panels wired together to maximise electricity being produced.

Solar Panel  A solar panel is made up of individual PV cells, glass and an aluminum frame. 

The Grid  Refers to the infrastructure set up to transport electricity from power plants to home and businesses. The local grid is the network of cables that distributes power throughout a town or city. The high voltage grid connects the large-scale energy plants to the local grid.