Learning the Language
If you’re looking into solar, chances are that you know about the overall benefits of using clean renewable energy. What you might have a hard time figuring out is all of that technical terminology. Investing in solar is a big decision, so it’s only natural that you’d want to understand exactly what you’d be getting into. We’ve put together a brief intro course to make your research a little easier to digest.
Solar Panel System Set-ups
While many people are familiar with rooftop systems (solar panels that are installed on the roof of a building), solar energy systems come in various forms. The type of system design you choose can depend on regional location, property layout, and project budget. Let’s take a look at some common terms relating to solar system structures.
- Ground-Mounted Systems: solar systems installed with metal supports in the ground rather than on a building. The framing can either sprawl horizontally on land, or be arranged vertically on a pole.
- Tracking Array: a system designed to follow the path of the sun, instead of staying at a fixed position. This encourages maximum energy production.
- Grid-Tied: a connection to a local power lines. This arrangement allows you to supplement energy that a system doesn’t generate, or to redirect excess energy that a system produces.
- Off-Grid: an independent structure. These systems allow the owner to use energy without a connection to the grid; these frequently include solar batteries as an energy storage option.
- Hybrid Systems: systems that are tied to the local grid, but also include a solar battery as a back-up power source.
Types of Energy & Measurements
In addition to system installation and equipment, it’s important to understand the basic measurements for energy production. A little background here will give you some insight on system sizes and efficiency ratings.
- Gigawatt, Megawatts, and Kilowatts: electricity is measured in watts or units of power. A kilowatt = 1,000 watts, a megawatt = 1,000 kilowatts, and a gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts.
- Kilowatt/Hour (kWh): the most common measure of electrical energy, it constitutes 1,000 watt-hours. For example, working on a laptop computer all-day (20 - 50 watts) roughly equals 1 kWh.
- Voltage at Maximum Power (Vmp): Voltage when power production is at its highest.
Pieces and Parts
Generally, solar arrays use either photovoltaic (PV) panels which produce electricity from light, or thermal panels which produce electricity from heat. Panels are the easiest part of a system to identify, but there are so many more components that go into generating solar power.
- Solar Cells: the part of a panel that absorbs light so it can become electricity. The cells are made of special materials (below) that allow this to take place.
Monocrystalline refers to black silicon panels that use single silicon crystal cells, allowing for an easier flow of electricity and higher efficiency.
Polycrystalline refers to blue silicon panels that use multiple silicon crystal cells, which have lower efficiency but are more cost-effective.
Thin-film refers to panels that are made from various materials, resulting in a more physically versatile panel with lower efficiency than its silicon counterparts.
- Inverter: the component in a solar system that converts raw solar energy into usable electricity. Inverters are essential because panels absorb direct current (DC) energy which must become alternating current (AC) energy in order to be used regularly.
- Diode: a component that enforces proper energy flow. Bypass diodes prevent power loss as energy travels within a system. Blocking diodes keep stored energy from leaving a solar battery unexpectedly.
- PV Junction Box: an essential part of system safety, this box holds and protects the electrical pieces of the solar system.
With a solid knowledge of what contributes to solar energy, you’ll be able to make informed decisions when it comes to your solar investment. When in doubt, trusted professionals are an excellent resource. At YellowLite, our solar experts take the time to guide you through the steps in your system design as well as the installation process.
For more information on going solar, reach out to a YellowLite consultant by phone or online.
Call us at 216-333-1364
Email us on https://www.yellowlite.com/contact-us/