Jargon Buster: Unpicking Solar Terms
August 1, 2023

Understanding Solar Energy with SmartSolar

At SmartSolar, we are committed to helping our Townsville community understand and navigate the world of solar energy. We understand that 'solar speak' can sometimes feel like a foreign language, so we've put together this handy 'jargon buster'.

Key Terms in Solar Energy

Here are some key terms you should know when exploring solar energy options:

  • Solar Panel: A device that converts sunlight into electricity. Made up of many small solar cells, these panels can be installed on your roof to generate clean, renewable power.

  • Photovoltaics (PV): The process of converting light into electricity. Solar panels use PV technology to harness the energy from the sun.

  • Grid-Tied System: A solar power system that is connected to the local utility grid. This allows for the use of grid power when solar power isn’t available and can also feed excess power back to the grid.

  • Inverter: A device that turns the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity used in your home.

  • Net Metering: A billing system that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. This means that if your solar panels produce more electricity than you use, the excess will be sent back to the grid and you'll receive a credit on your electric bill.

  • Battery Storage: This refers to a system where you store the excess electricity generated by your solar panels in a battery for use when needed. Battery storage systems are growing in popularity as they provide energy security and independence from the grid. They're especially useful in places with frequent power outages or high electricity costs.

  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh): This is the unit of electricity that your utility company uses to bill you. A kilowatt-hour represents the amount of energy you're consuming over a period of time. For example, if you use a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours, that's one kilowatt-hour.

More Advanced Solar Terms

As you delve deeper into solar energy, you'll come across more complex terms:

  • Peak Sun Hours: This refers to the amount of solar energy available in a location at a given time. It is not the same as daylight hours as it specifically refers to the period when sunlight intensity is at its highest.

  • Energy Payback Time (EPBT): This is the time it takes for a solar panel to generate the same amount of energy that was used to produce it. With today's technology, this is typically less than four years, depending on the location and efficiency of the panels.

  • Solar Cell Efficiency: This term represents how much of the sunlight hitting a solar cell is converted into usable electricity. Higher efficiency means more electricity generation from the same amount of sunlight.

  • Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal structure, which allows electrons that generate a flow of electricity to move around more freely, making them more efficient. Polycrystalline panels are made up of various crystal structures, making them less efficient but also less expensive.

  • Off-Grid System: Unlike a grid-tied system, an off-grid system is not connected to the utility grid. Instead, it relies entirely on solar power and battery storage. This is beneficial for remote locations without access to the utility grid.

  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs): These are tradable commodities that you earn from generating solar power. In certain markets, you can sell SRECs to utility companies, creating an additional revenue stream from your solar system.

  • Feed-In Tariff (FIT): This is a policy that allows individuals to sell their excess solar power back to the utility company at a fixed rate. The goal of FIT is to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources.

Financial Aspects of Solar Energy

Understanding the financial aspects of solar energy will help you make an informed decision:

  • Solar Lease: This is a financial agreement where a solar retailer installs panels on your property, and you pay a fixed monthly fee, often lower than your previous electricity bill. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of solar without the upfront costs.

  • Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): Similar to a lease, a PPA is a contract where the solar company installs and maintains the solar system on your property. However, instead of a fixed monthly payment, you purchase the power generated by the system at a predetermined rate.

  • Bankability: In the context of solar energy, bankability refers to the degree of financial risk associated with a particular solar project, technology, or company. It's a measure of how likely banks and other financial institutions are to grant a loan for the project or technology. A highly bankable project is one that is perceived to be low risk and is more likely to attract financing due to a proven track record of performance, reliability, and profitability.

We hope this guide serves as a good starting point. Remember, at SmartSolar, we're always here to answer your questions and make the process of going solar as smooth as possible.

Ready to Explore More About Solar Energy?

At SmartSolar, we're here to guide you every step of the way! Book a call with our team of experts for detailed consultation and guidance. If you're interested in understanding potential savings, use our free savings calculator. The tool will give you a rough estimate of how much you could save by switching to solar energy.

So, why wait? Let's take the first step towards a sustainable future together!

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