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Absorber
In a photovoltaic device, the material that readily absorbs photons to generate charge carriers (free electrons or holes).

Alternating Current (AC)
A type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In Canada, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease.

Ampere
A measurement of an electric current. It is commonly known as an amp.

Balance of System
All of the components in a photovoltaic solar system excluding the solar panels. This includes all of the wiring, conduits, inverters, AC and DC disconnects and breaker box.

Breaker Box
It houses all of the circuit breakers.

Conduit
A piping system that protects and routes electrical wiring.

Current
A flow of electrons.

Direct Current (DC)
It is a current that flows in one direction. Electricity produced from photovoltaic panels is direct current. Unlike alternative current, direct current is able to be stored in battery banks.

Disconnect
Switch used to shut-off the flow of electricity.

Electrical Grid
An interconnected network that provides electricity from suppliers to consumers. It is commonly called a grid.

Energy
It is the ability to do useful work.

Energy Efficiency
It is how efficient energy is converted from one form to another. An internal combustion engine from an automobile has an efficiency of 25%. A photovoltaic solar panel typically has an energy efficiency of 14%.

Grid-Tied
Interconnecting the electricity generated from a solar array with the power grid.

Ground Mount
A solar array mounted on the ground.

Inverter
Converts DC electricity into AC electricity. Solar inverters typically have an efficiency of 95%.

Kilowatt (kW)
It is a unit of power. It is the equivalent of 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt Hour (kWh)
It is a unit of energy. Electric utilities use this unit of measure to determine the amount of energy a customer consumes.

Micro Inverter
A device that converts direct current (DC) from a single solar panel into alternating current (AC). Unlike a central or string inverter that aggregates and converts the power generated by the entire array of solar panels, a micro-inverter converts the power from a single solar module. Micro-inverters were invented to address some of the challenges associated with standard central inverters, including the effect of dust, debris and shade on a solar array. The use of micro-inverters allow solar panels to be installed in parallel, so issues with any one panel will no longer affect the output of rest of the solar array. Other advantages include less complex rooftop wiring (lower voltages), and per-panel performance monitoring capability.

Net Metering
An agreement between the owner of the solar system and the local electrical utility that would allow surplus electricity to flow in the grid. Depending on the electric utility, some or all of the surplus electricity produced may be partially or fully credited back to the electric customer. This in turn would spin the meter backwards.

Off-Grid
A system that is not interconnected with the electric utility grid.

Orientation
The direction an array is facing. This is also known as azimuth.

Photovoltaic (PV)
It is a method of generating electricity from light, typically from the sun.

Pitch
The angle of a roof.

Pole Mount
A solar array mounted on a pole, typically top-of-pole mount.

Power Tolerance
This specification pertains to range within which a solar panel will over perform or under perform. For instance, a 180 watt PTC rated panel with a power tolerance of +/-5 could actually produce anywhere from 175-185 watts in optimal real world conditions. Therefore, when comparing panels for your project you should limit your selection to panels with only positive and/or very small negative power tolerance ratings.

Semiconductor
A material that has an electrical conductivity due to flowing electrons. Devices made from semiconductor materials are the foundation of modern electronics, including radio, computers, telephones, and solar cells.

Solar Cell
Made of semi-conducting material that converts light into DC electricity.

Solar Photovoltaic Array
A group of interconnected solar panels. It is typically called a solar array.

Solar Photovoltaic Module
Contains a group of solar cells. It is also known as solar panel

STC vs. PTC Rated
STC is an acronym for 'Standard Test Conditions', which is 1000 watts per square meter solar irradiance, 1.5 Air Mass and 20 degrees Celsius. These are not real world conditions. PTC is an acronym for 'PV USA Test Conditions, which is a more accurate reflection of real world conditions. Therefore, when comparing panel ratings, one should ensure that PTC ratings are used.

String Inverter
A device for converting DC to AC power which is designed for high voltage DC inputs. Using a string inverter, the solar array is wired in series, rather than in parallel. The advantage of this approach is generally lower cost. However, drawbacks may include more complex rooftop wiring (higher voltages), a central point of failure and an increased negative effect of dust, debris and shade on the solar array.

Voltage
It is the difference of electrical potential between two electrical points. It can be best described as a "carrier" of electrons.

Watt
A unit of power measured by unites of ampere and volt.

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