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Glossary of Solar Terms

Array - A group of solar panels collectively makes up a solar array.

Grid - The network of power-lines which connects power plants to substations and on to distribution lines which take power to homes or businesses. It can be used to refer to a transmission-level grid or a distribution-level grid, which have slightly different functions.

Grid-tied (or grid-connected) system - A solar electric system in which the array can receive power from the electric utility, and can also supply power to the grid.

Insolation - The amount of sunlight reaching an area, usually expressed in Watt hours per square meter per day.

Interconnection Application - The form which your electric cooperative representative will ask you to complete. This form initiates the process of connecting your solar PV system to the grid.

Interconnection Agreement - The document which defines the terms and conditions under which your system will be connected to the utility grid, including the technical requirements necessary to ensure safety and power quality.

Inverter - A device that converts DC power captured by the photovoltaic cells on solar panels into AC power that can be used to power your home or business. This device is an integral part of a solar system. Large solar systems may have more than one inverter.

Irradiance - The solar power incident on a surface, usually expressed in kilowatts per square meter. Irradiance multiplied by time gives insolation.

kW (kilowatt) - A measurement of power. A kilowatt is one thousand Watts. The size of a solar system is often measured in kW. A typical size solar system for a home is 3-7 kW; for a medium sized business is 10-100 kW.

kWh (kilowatt-hour) - A measurement of energy consumption or energy generation. One kilowatt hour is defined as the amount of energy consumed by a 1000-Watt appliance running continuously for 1 hour. This is the measurement your utility company uses to calculate your electric bill and will be the measure of your solar system's output.

Meter - An electricity meter or energy meter is a device that measures the amount of electric energy consumed by a residence, business, or an electrically powered device.

Module - An encapsulated panel containing a number of electrically connected PV cells.

Net-metering of solar electricity generation is used to calculate the difference between energy that is used and energy that is produced. The customer is then billed for the electricity he uses, or receives a credit if excess electricity is produced by the solar electric system owned by the customer.

Orientation - Position with respect to the directions of north, south, east, west.

Panel - A group of modules arranged and attached in one plane, or can be used interchangeably with "module".

Photovoltaic (PV) - The process of converting light into electrical energy. A photovoltaic cell is a device which converts light into electrical energy. The PV cells are manufactured into a module, which is then wired into an array, and ultimately into a PV system.

Pyranometer - An instrument used for measuring solar irradiance.

Racking - Structural supports used to hold the modules in place. Racking is used to mount the modules on the roof, the ground or as a panel on top of a pole.

Rated output of a module - The DC power output of a module under standard test conditions, (the module is at 25 degrees C and 1000 W/sq.m. of solar irradiance, and typically ranges from 100 to 340 watts). It is important to note that the actual operating conditions will usually be different from the standard test conditions. 1000 W/sq.m. can be thought of as the solar intensity of a clear sunny day. If the temperature of the panel is more than 25 degrees C (77F) it will reduce the output that you get from the panels, or if the panel is colder, the DC output can actually be higher than "rated".

Tilt (or tilt angle) - The angle of inclination of a solar panel or solar module measured from the horizontal (plane of the ground).

Watt - see kilowatt.

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