21 Solar Installation Terms for New Home Construction You Should Know

08/05/2019

We get it, solar can be confusing. It can be even more so if you’re not quite sure what solar terms you should know before thinking about fulfilling solar requirements for new home construction. Here is a simplified solar glossary for you to get started, in Alphabetical order:

  1. Direct Current (DC) vs Alternating Current (AC) – DC electricity is what is produced by the solar panels using the sun’s rays, while AC is the converted electricity that is used in the home and appliances.
  2. Grid-Connected Photovoltaic (PV) System – This is a solar system that is connected to the utility grid. This allows a PV system to send energy to the grid when it is producing more energy than currently being used by the home, and allows homeowners to draw energy from the grid when the PV system isn’t producing (i.e. night time), or when energy used by homeowners exceeds energy generated by the PV system.
  3. Mounting System – Photovoltaic mounting system refers to the racking and mounting equipment and process used to secure solar panels onto rooftops, building facades, or the ground.  This equipment is often made of lightweight aluminum and stainless steel.  The mounting system is one of the largest areas of innovation within the solar industry and an important element of solar arrays.
  4. Microinverters– These devices convert the generated solar energy into usable electricity for a home. Microinverters are connected individually to each and every solar panel, allowing them to work independently. Microinverters, as compared to string inverters differ in that, if one panel in the string undergoes a low output, all the other panels will drop to that low output. Microinverters, in contrast, ensure every panel perform at its maximum potential and reliability.
  5. Module – Another name for a solar panel. (See solar panel)
  6. Net Metering – A billing arrangement between a utility and its customer that allows the customer to receive credit for excess renewable electricity delivered to the grid. A 'net meter' tracks both the electricity drawn from the grid by the customer and the electricity generated by the solar energy system and sent to the grid.
  7. Permission to Operate (PTO) – Before a solar system can be turned on to generate energy, approval is needed from the local utility company. To get the system connected to the grid, it must go through the process of interconnection standards first. PTO grants the approval from your local utility company stating that the solar system is ready to be activated and is connected to the utility grid.
  8. Photovoltaic (PV) – This refers to PV technologies’ direct conversion of sunlight into electricity through a naturally occurring process in semiconducting materials. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, photons (energy particles) knock electrons free from their atoms, allowing them to flow through the material to produce electricity (voltage).[1]
  9. Solar Home – This is a home that has a fully-integrated rooftop photovoltaic (PV) array installed in order to generate electricity from the sun.
  10. Solar Interconnections Standards – These standards define how a distributed generation system, such as solar photovoltaic (PVs), can connect to the grid.[2] Before a solar PV system can be turned on, it must go through the proper process in order to receive Permission to Operate (see Permission to Operate) for the system to be turned on and start generating energy.
  11. Solar Job Card – This approval is issued by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) (for your local jurisdiction) that approves all final inspections of the building that need to be obtained for PTO process, including solar wiring.
  12. Solar Monitoring System – This is software that tracks the production levels (in Kilowatt-hours) of a PV System. It offers information regarding the ongoing health of the system and supplies data needed for billing, carbon offsets and more. Most monitoring systems can be set up to have cellular capabilities, allowing access via mobile apps and smart home devices.
  13. Solar Panel / Photovoltaic (PV) Panel – A device that links many solar cells together to form a circuit, then converts them into electricity which can then be used to power electrical loads. The more light collected by a cell, the more electricity produced. Because the U.S. electrical grid uses AC power, DC electricity generated from PV solar panels must be converted to AC electricity using an inverter.
  14. Solar Panel Efficiency – A measurement (expressed as a percentage) of the sun’s energy captured and converted into electricity by solar panels.
  15. Solar Permitting – Before solar can be installed on a property, the system owner must complete all necessary permitting requirements. This can vary depending on the state and local jurisdiction.
  16. Solar Production Estimates – These estimates are based on several specific characteristics of each particular solar installation that will affect electricity production, including the system size, roof azimuth/orientation, shade, types of equipment being used, and geography.
  17. Solar Ready – A “solar-ready” home is a home that is built, wired and made ready during the time of construction of the home to accommodate a solar installation.
  18. Smart Grid – An intelligent power system that regulates the two-way flow of electricity and information between power plants and consumers to manage grid activity.
  19. Voltage/watt – The amount of electromotive force (EMF), expressed in volts, that exists between two points.
  20. Interconnection agreement – A contract between the local utility and its customers that prescribes the terms under which those customers may connect their solar power system to the electric grid.
  21. Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Home – A home in which the total amount of energy consumption of the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of the renewable energy that is generated on site. To achieve this the amount of energy needed to power the home and the amount of energy generated onsite through renewable energy, such as solar power, must be balanced. The Department of Energy has a set of guidelines that can qualify builders looking to participate in the Zero Energy Ready Home Program[3] to make sure they are compliant with this standard.

If you want to take the next step in your solar construction journey, check out 3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Solar Provider and to keep yourself updated, follow the SunStreet Journal. For any questions related our installation process, visit our FAQ page.

[1] https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/solar-energy/tech/solarpv.html

[2] https://www.epa.gov/repowertoolbox/solar-interconnection-standards-policies

[3] https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/guidelines-participating-doe-zero-energy-ready-home-program

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