Solar Glossary

Solar Energy

Renewable Energy

A renewal energy resource is an energy resource that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are solar, wind, geothermal, and water. Renewable energy reduces our carbon footprint, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun. Solar energy is measured is kilowatt hours (kWh) or megawatt hours (MWh).

kWh and MWh

kWh and MWh are measurements of energy production and usage. kWh stands for kilowatt hour. MWh stands for megawatt hour.

Photovoltaic (PV)

The process by which sunlight is converted into energy. The sun emits photons (light), which generates electricity when they strike a photovoltaic cell. A photovoltaic module is another term for a solar panel.

Alternating Current (AC)

Alternating current is a type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease. This is the type of current used by homes and buildings.

Direct Current (DC)

Direct current is a type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. This is the type of current created by your solar panels. To be used for homes, DC must be converted to alternating current (AC) using an inverter.

Carbon Footprint

Our carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emissions (pollutants) we generate through our use of fossil fuels. Using solar power or other renewable energy reduces our carbon footprint.

Solar Laws and Processes


Solar commissioning (or PV system commissioning) is a safety process initiated by your utility to test and turn on your solar array. Once the solar array is commissioned, it will then generate solar energy.

Solar Rights Act

The Solar Rights Act, enacted in New Mexico in 1978 and amended in 2007, bars restrictions by home owners’ associations (HOAs) on the installation of solar-energy systems. These entities can impose reasonable restrictions on a solar energy system that do not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance.

Interconnection Application

An application submitted to your utility, requesting permission to add a grid-tied distributed generation system to their infrastructure. Essentially, the application tells the utility that a consumer on their grid is planning on not only consuming energy, but also supplying energy. This application allows the utility to determine the impact this energy generation will have on the grid infrastructure.

JHA — A Jursdiction Having Authority (JHA)

Refers to the territorial jurisdiction in which a home resides. The jurisdiction (city, township or county), is responsible for overseeing adherence to laws, standards and codes within its scope of authority.

Net Metering

Net metering is the practice of allowing surplus solar power generated by a home or business to send that electricity back to the power grid. Net metering allows solar customers to only pay for the "net" energy used from the grid during a given time period. When excess power is being sent back to the utility grid, a customer's meter may slow down or even spin backwards.

Solar Permitting

Permitting is required for large scale construction projects on existing structures for most jurisdictions having authority (JHAs). The permitting process allows jurisdictions to ensure that these types of projects are being conducted by those with the appropriate training and licenses, and that those projects will not negatively affect a structure or community in an unanticipated manner.


A Home Owners Association (HOA) is an organization of homeowners of a particular subdivision, condominium or planned unit development. The HOA typically is a governing body for the community and has authority over modifications made to a property within its community.

Solar Equipment

Solar Array

A solar array is an interconnected system of photovoltaic modules (solar panels) that function as a single electricity-producing unit. These modules are assembled as a single structure, with common support or mounting. Solar arrays may be installed on building roofs, open land or over parking structures/carports.


An Inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity. This converts power from solar panels into power that a home, business or electricity grid can use.

Solar Panel

A solar panel (often used interchangeably with PV module) is a panel designed to absorb the sun's rays as a source of energy for generating electricity or heating.


A microinverter is an inverter attached individually to each panel in the solar array. Microinverters allow a solar array to be more shade tolerant, produce more power and provide access to panel level monitoring.

Solar Cell

A solar cell is the smallest semiconductor element within a PV module to convert light into electrical energy. Solar panels are made up of multiple solar cells.

String Inverter

A string inverter is an inverter typically mounted on the roof or side of a structure. Multiple solar panels are interconnected via "strings" which then tie into the string inverter to convert the solar energy to AC energy.

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are generally thought of as a premium solar product. The main advantages of monocrystalline panels are higher efficiencies than polycrystalline panels and sleeker aesthetics. To make solar cells for monocrystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars and cut into wafers. These types of panels are called “monocrystalline” to indicate that the silicon used is single-crystal silicon. Because the cell is composed of a single crystal, the electrons that generate a flow of electricity have more room to move. As a result, monocrystalline panels are more efficient than their polycrystalline counterparts.


Monitoring is a system by which solar production data is passed from the solar array to a cloud-based app. Customers can use their secure login to view real time and historical solar production for their solar system.

Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are made by melting multiple silicon fragments together to form the wafers for the panel. Polycrystalline solar panels are also referred to as “multi-crystalline,” or many-crystal silicon. Because there are many crystals in each cell, there is less freedom for the electrons to move. As a result, polycrystalline solar panels have lower efficiency ratings than monocrystalline panels.

Grid-Tie System (GTS)

A Grid-Tie System (or Grid-Connected System) is a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system in which the solar array supplies power to the community electrical grid.

Balance of System

“Balance of system” is a term used to describe all components of a solar electrical system other than the solar modules, mounting structure, and inverter. This includes the AC and DC breakers, fuses and other electrical safety components of a utility or grid tied solar electric system.

Electrical Panel

An electrical panel (also known as a breaker panel) is a distribution board component of an electricity supply system. The electrical panel divides an electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit in a common enclosure.


Photovoltaic mounting systems (also called solar module racking) are used to fix solar panels on surfaces like roofs, building facades, or the ground.

Electrical Grid

An electrical grid is an integrated system of electricity distribution, usually covering a large area such as a city or county. Homes and businesses may export excess solar power to the electrical grid during the day and then pull power back again at night as needed.

Agreements, Warranties
and Guarantees

Installation Agreement

Also known as a contract, an installation agreement is a legally binding document that outlines services to be provided or work to be performed by the contractor in exchange for a specific cost to the client.

Performance Guarantee

A contractual agreement between the client and solar company that guarantees the system will produce a specific amount of solar energy that is determined prior to installation.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a contracted rate. PPAs typically range from 10 to 25 years and all incentives are for the benefit of the developer. Affordable Solar does not currently offer power purchase agreement programs.

Product Warranty

Most solar components comes with a product warranty. These warranties have varying lengths and require different steps from end-users and contractors in order to make use of the warranties.

Solar Panel Production Warranty

Production warranty for a solar panel is a warranted level of power that a solar panel will produce at standard conditions for each year extending into the future.

Solar Lease

A solar lease, while similar to a PPA, is different in that the customer pays to “rent” the solar system at a fixed monthly rate. This payment is calculated using the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce in exchange for the right to use the solar energy system. Affordable Solar does not currently offer solar lease programs.