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Interpreting ‘solar talk’

Like many other industries, the solar industry has its own set of vocabulary that may leave someone who is new to the solar industry, ‘scratching their head.’ The purpose of this e-mail is to provide you with definitions on lingo that is used on a daily basis in the solar industry.

Solar Module: The more common name for a solar module is ‘solar panel.’ When solar panels are connected on a roof, this creates a solar array or more commonly called a solar system

Photovoltaics: You may hear the word photovoltaic or PV when someone is discussing solar energy. Photovoltaics translates to ‘light electricity’ and is the method of creating electricity from solar (sun) radiation through the use of solar modules.

Inverter: After solar radiation is transformed into direct current (DC) electricity from the solar module, an inverter turns the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity which then can be used in a business or home.

Interconnection: The interconnection is the physical connection between the electrical grid and your solar array.

Kilowatt:  The rate in which power is used or produced.  Solar arrays are rated in kilowatts, which is the amount of electrical power that would be produced at any specific point in time at standard test conditions (STC).  

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The volume of power that is used or produced.  One kWh is the amount of energy a 1,000 W item would use (or produce) if it ran for 1 hour continuously.

Net Metering: Net metering is the agreement between a utility and a solar-producing consumer that allow the consumer to buy and sell electrical credits as needed. This allows the consumer to fluctuate from using ‘grid power’ to ‘solar power’ depending on the production of their solar system. If the solar system produces more than the house is using, the energy is transferred to the utility by means of an electrical credit.

Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC): An SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate) is minted for every MWh (1,000 kWh’s) generated from a solar project. An SREC represents the environmental benefit of solar, and is completely separate from electric savings and other benefits of solar. The value of an SREC varies significantly by state, and is based on the demand for SREC’s within any given state.

Solar Module Degradation: Over many years, the performance of solar modules (panels) begins to degrade, causing the module to be less efficient. This degradation is caused by exposure to the elements and normal wear on the solar panel. Panel degradation is to be expected with solar modules. Each manufacturer specifies the expected degradation and warranties the panels based on these degradation expectations.

Solar ITC (Investment Tax Credit): The 30% Solar ITC (or sometimes called federal tax credit), is available for all solar arrays until the end of 2019. The tax credit will then step-down over several year. The Solar ITC provides an extra incentive for businesses or homeowners to install a solar array up and beyond the electric savings.

NABCEP: NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is recognized as the solar industries standard organization for training and certifications. Comprehensive and extensive training is required to receive a NABCEP certification.

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