While we write our blogs in a conversational manner, we throw out terms and words that are so commonly used within the solar energy industry we can sometimes forget that not everyone is reading them with the same industry knowledge base. For that reason, we’ve decided to pull together a glossary of terms. Some will be familiar while others may not. We’ll kick through in alphabetical order.
We tend to use a number of interchangeable terms for this one, accredited, registered, SEAI approved. When installing a solar solution, if you choose to employ the services of a company that is non-accredited, it could mean you’re not eligible for the government grants available and it could, in some cases even mean that your system is unlawful.
Simply put, active solar is the use of a tool, product or solution that allows you to capture the sun’s energy in a way that allows you to convert it to usable electricity.
Refers to the energy that comes from sources that are also usually considered green, renewable and sustainable. They cause minimal harm to the environment. They include solar energy, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydro electrical energy sources.
Alternating Current (AC)
This is a type of electrical current, in which the direction of the flow of electrons switches back and forth at regular intervals or cycles. This is the electricity that we use most commonly in our household outlets.
Balance of System (BOS)
The term BOS stands for all the other components of a solar system besides the panels, including the wiring, inverters and monitoring system.
Building Energy Rating (BER)
This is a certificate that rates your home’s energy performance on a sliding scale of A and G, with A being the most energy efficient and G-rated the least energy efficient. BER certificates are legally required if you are selling, renting or buying a home.
Direct Current (DC)
Direct current (DC) is one-directional flow of electric charge. It’s used in any electronic device with a battery for a power source.
An energy audit is the process in which a homeowner can assess the amount of energy that a home or business uses. As a result, it can also provide solutions on how to make a building more energy-efficient.
Feed in Tariff
In the event that the government or national grid pay you for every unit of electricity you produce using a solar system it’s known as a feed-in tariff scheme. This occurs if you’re generating surplus energy and don’t have the capacity to store it or use it within a certain timeframe.
To avail of feed in tariffs, you would need your solar system to be able to access the national grid.
Off -the-grid systems
This is not really a reality in Ireland. It would be a very unusual case where a house does not have access to the national grid. However, to give you an understanding, an off-grid system relies on battery storage and quite possibly, a back up diesel or petrol generator.
Commonly known as ‘the brain’ of the solar system, this is the device that converts the DC collected by your panels into AC that can be used in the home. The inverter is an efficient combination of digital technology and power conversion architecture to optimise the amount of energy that the panels can collect.
This is spoken about frequently in relation to the placement of panels. It refers to the measure of how much sunlight will hit the panels
This is how electricity is measured. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.
Kilowatt Hour (kWh)
Energy consumption is measured in kilowatt hours. This is helpful to know when looking at your energy bills. A 2kw appliance running for 1 hour will consume 2kWh (units)
Micro Generation Support Scheme (MSS)
MSS is a new Irish government scheme aimed at providing a route to market for individuals, businesses and communities to generate their own solar electric energy and receive a fair and efficient price for selling it back to the grid.
This is the use of solar energy without using a device to do so. For example, if you have large south facing windows, they are using the power of the sun for heat and light without requiring any additional measures to assist them.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells
Photovoltaic cells (or solar cells) consist of two or more thin layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. These, when exposed to light, generate an electrical charge.
Solar Energy Statistics
The World Map of Direct Solar Irradiation is a great source for seeing the potential for solar in specific countries.
Are used to generate electricity that can be used for a variety of purposes.
Solar Thermal Systems
Are used to heat water.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
This is the use of solar energy for generating electricity.
Solar Thermal (ST)
This is the use of solar energy for heating purposes.
Standard Test Conditions (STC)
This is an industry standard lab carried test, where the conditions are optimal (temperature at 25°C and irradiance at 1,000W/m² irradiance.) However,it’s important to note that solar systems will have a lower energy yield with changes in: weather, shading, irradiance.
A temperature coefficient refers to the change of a physical property in response to a change in temperature. As a solar panel increases in temperature, the power output of the solar panel decreases.
If there are other terms that you’d like more information on, please let us know and we’ll add them to this blog.
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