Solar Energy Definitions
We hope this solar energy information answers some of your questions about the basics of solar power.
AC power (alternating current) power—the form of energy used in your home to power all your lights, appliances and other household gadgets.
DC power (direct current) power—the form of energy generated by the sun and solar cells contained in solar panels. An inverter, which is installed inside or outside of your home, converts the DC power to AC electricity, so it can be used in your home.
Electrical Grid—a vast distribution system that links the power which utility companies produce to homes and businesses.
Going Green—making a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly.
Government Rebates—the state and federal government offer homeowners certain rebates, if they decide to produce their own power using solar energy. These rebates can vary and are constantly changing. Your solar consultant can give you all the details about which rebates are currently available.
Inverter—a piece of equipment installed inside or outside your home that converts DC power to AC electricity.
Kilowatt (kw)—electric power is measured in watts. 1 kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. This is the amount of power being used by 10 100-watt bulbs at any point in time.
Kilowatt hours (kwh)—the amount of power used over time. Kwh is used to measure energy consumption. If 10 100-watt bulbs were on for 1 hour, they would have consumed 1,000 watts per hour or 1 kwh. Your monthly electric bill contains the kwh usage for your home.
Mounting racks—special racks that are attached to your roof and connected to solar panels which allow the panels to sit atop your roof.
Net metering—a new meter will be installed with your solar system that allows you to send your excess power to your utility company. If you generate more power than you actually use, the meter will spin backwards, not forward, showing you exactly how much power you’re giving back to the electrical grid. The utility company bills (or credits) you for the “net” energy consumed, which is the difference between what you produced and what you used.
Non-renewable energy—energy derived from fossil fuels, such as coal or gas. This type of energy cannot be renewed, so once it’s used up, it no longer exists. Plus, it produces harmful gases that pollute the air and water.
Property tax exemption—in many states, solar systems are exempt from property taxes, so installing one on your home does not increase your real estate taxes.
Renewable energy—energy derived from natural resources, such as sun or wind. This type of energy can be renewed, so its supply is never depleted. Is solar energy renewable? Yes, it is!
SRECs (available in New Jersey only)—Solar Renewable Energy Certificates—as you generate your own electricity, you earn SRECs, which can be sold (much like a stock on the stock market) back to your utility company for cash. Essentially, SRECs are earned until you sell them. Exactly how much you are paid per SREC depends on the current market rate for SRECs when you decide to sell them. For every 1000 kwh of energy you produce through your solar system, you earn 1 SREC. A typical solar system may generate 7-10 SRECs per year (however, everyone’s situation is different, so results may vary).
Solar cells—silicon cells contained in solar panels that help convert the sun’s rays into DC power.
Solar energy—How do you define solar energy? It’s a safe, reliable way to use the power of the sun to generate electricity for homes and businesses.
Solar panels—panels containing solar cells that are installed on rooftops (or mounted on the ground) to capture the sun’s rays. On average, individual panel sizes are 40 inches wide by 65 inches tall. Each ways approximately 35 pounds and produce from 280 up to 315 watts per panel – depending on which panels are used on your home.
Solar rebates—certain states provide up-front incentives to reduce the initial cost of installing solar. Your solar consultant can give you all the details about which rebates are currently available.
Solar thermal energy—the use of solar energy to produce heat (rather than electricity, which is what solar PV systems produce). A solar thermal energy system can be used to heat water, for example.
Tax incentives—the federal government (and some states) offers homeowners certain tax credits to utilize renewable energy to power their homes. These incentives are continuously changing, but your solar consultant can give you details about the specific tax incentives available when you install your solar system. Under current legislation, federal tax payers can receive 30% of the cost of a solar system as a credit on their individual federal income taxes.