A Guide to Solar Panel Terminology

This guide provides definitions for commonly used solar energy terms

Solar panel installers R&B M&E Ltd explain that this glossary provides definitions for commonly used solar energy terms, including different types of solar power, materials used in solar systems, renewable energy incentives, and abbreviations.

Parts of a Solar Panel System

  • Cell: A photovoltaic cell is a semiconductor device that converts light into direct current (DC) electricity. Multiple cells can be connected to form solar modules.
  • Module: A group of photovoltaic cells encased in a protective layer for environmental protection.
  • Panel: One or more modules wired together to create a larger unit.
  • Array: A collection of interconnected solar panels or modules, varying in size depending on system requirements.
  • Inverter: Converts direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity usable in homes and businesses.
  • Collector: Primarily used in solar thermal systems, collectors absorb solar radiation and transfer the heat to a fluid (like water) for various applications.
  • Shingle: Solar modules designed to resemble traditional roof shingles for a more aesthetically pleasing look. They are also called solar tiles or slates.
  • Storage Battery: Allows you to store excess solar energy generated during the day for use at night or other times when panels aren’t producing electricity.
  • Tracker: A mechanical system that adjusts the angle of solar panels to maximize sunlight capture throughout the day.

Solar Panel Incentives, Schemes, and Abbreviations

  • Feed-in Tariff (FiT): A closed program that offered payments to homeowners in the UK for generating and exporting solar electricity to the grid. (Closed to new applications in March 2019)
  • Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI): A government program that provides financial incentives for installing approved renewable heating systems.
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): A rating (A-G) assigned to a property based on its energy efficiency. A minimum EPC rating of D was required to qualify for FiT payments.
  • Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS): A quality assurance program that certifies solar technologies and installers. Using an MCS accredited installer was mandatory to receive FiT payments.

The Different Types of Solar Power?

  • Solar Thermal: Also known as solar water heating, this system uses solar energy captured by collectors to heat water.
  • Photovoltaic (PV) Solar: Converts solar radiation into direct current (DC) electricity, which is then inverted into alternating current (AC) for use.

Types of Solar Panel Installation

  • Roof Mounted: Solar panels are secured to the roof surface using mounting systems.
  • Ground Mounted: Solar arrays are installed on a framework on the ground, often suitable for properties with unsuitable roofs.
  • Solar Farm (or Solar Field): Large-scale solar energy generation installations with extensive areas of mounted solar panels.
  • Concentrated Solar Power (CSP): Mirrors or lenses concentrate sunlight to generate electricity using heat. Common types include power tower, dish, parabolic, and linear CSP systems.

Solar Panel Materials

  • Monocrystalline: A photovoltaic cell made from a single-crystal silicon wafer, where the entire cell structure aligns in one direction.
  • Polycrystalline (or Multicrystalline): A photovoltaic material formed from silicon offcuts, creating numerous tiny crystals with varying orientations.
  • Amorphous: A thin-film photovoltaic cell made from non-crystalline silicon with a glassy structure.

Energy Terminology

  • Kilowatt (kW): Unit of electrical power measurement, equal to 1,000 watts.
  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh): Unit of energy measurement, equivalent to using 1,000 watts for one hour.
  • Renewable Energy: Energy generated from sources that are not depleted or used up during the process, such as solar, wind, and tidal energy.
  • Alternating Current (AC): An electric current that constantly changes direction.
  • Direct Current (DC): An electric current that flows in only one direction.
  • Electrical Grid: A network of transmission lines that deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers.
  • Off-Grid: Refers to a system that is independent of the electricity grid and generates its own power.

Contact solar panel installers R&B M&E for further information and a free quotation for your soalr panel system.

Contact Me

Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK

Chris Parkinson, Parkinson Construction Skipton Limited