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Glossary

Solar Energy: electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun. In order to power buildings, this energy must be captured and converted to AC electrical power.

AC power (Alternating Current): an electrical current whose magnitude and direction varies continuously and sinusoidally. AC is the form in which electricity is delivered to businesses and residences. It can be thought of as “standard” electrical power.

Annual Solar Savings: the amount of money saved by avoidance of electrical utility costs. Since solar will drastically reduce, and in many cases virtually eliminate the electric bill, the savings can be substantial.

DC power (Direct Current): an electrical current whose magnitude and direction stay constant. The photovoltaic cells on solar panels capture energy from sunlight in the form of DC. In order to power your home, this current must be converted to AC by an inverter.

Electrical Current: the flow of charged electrons through a circuit. Depending upon its behavior, an electrical current can be alternating or direct (AC or DC).

Electric Panel: an electrical distribution board that houses electrical circuit breakers. It is the main point at which electricity is distributed throughout a building. It is otherwise known as a breaker box. The circuit breakers can be turned on or off, thus restricting or permitting the flow of electrical current to electrical outlets.

Fossil fuel: fuels that are derived from natural resources, usually in the form of coal, oil, or natural gas. There is a limited supply of these resources, and they are only located in certain parts of the world, causing them to be subject to political and international maneuvering, and making energy prices unstable.

Greenhouse gases: gaseous components in the atmosphere that contribute to a gradual warming of the planet. This slow warming has been termed the “greenhouse effect.” The most prevalent of these gases is carbon dioxide, which is released in large quantities when fossil fuels are burned. Nothing is burned to convert sunlight into power; since solar energy does not have any gaseous by-products, it is considered “clean.”

Grid Connected System:  a solar system connected in parallel with the electric utility grid. Ault Energy systems are grid-connected solar systems.

Ground Mounted Systems: a solar system that is not attached directly to a building, but is supported by a structure that is built specifically to support solar panels. Ground mounts are ideal for buildings with shady or undersized roofs.

Inverter: a device that converts DC power captured by the photovoltaic cells on solar panels into AC power that can be used to power your home. This device is an integral part of a solar system. Large solar systems may have more than one inverter.

kW (kilowatt): a measurement of power based on the Watt. The Watt is the standard unit used to measure power. A kilowatt is one thousand watts. A typical household requires a solar power system that produces between 3-5 kW.

KWh (kilowatt hours): a measurement of energy consumption. One kilowatt hour equals one “unit” of electricity. One kilowatt hour is defined as the amount of energy consumed by a 1000-Watt appliance running continuously for 1 hour. This is the measurement your utility company uses to calculate your electric bill.

Net Metering: an agreement between a solar system owner and the local electric utility that allows the system owner to buy and sell energy in the form of electric credits. When the solar system produces excess energy, it is sold back to the electric utility at peak prices, literally causing the electric meter to spin backwards. When the system is not producing energy, the system owner can use the credits to buy back energy at off-peak prices.

Photovoltaic cells: the small elements of semiconducting material that capture sunlight and convert it into DC power. A group of photovoltaic cells make up a solar panel or a photovoltaic module. Often abbreviated PV module.

Roof Mounted Systems: a solar system in which solar panels are mounted directly on the roof of a building or adjacent structure. The majority of solar systems are mounted on a roof.

Solar Array: a group of solar panels collectively makes up a solar array. A solar array is the entire system of solar panels that capture sunlight and convert it into DC power.

Solar Panel: a group of solar cells arranged into a panel that can be installed onto a flat surface. The panel captures sunlight and converts it into DC power.

Stand-alone System: a solar energy system that is not connected to the utility grid. Also called an off-grid system. In order to provide continuous power, these systems must be connected to storage units that can store excess power produced during daylight hours for use in the dark or at night.

Tilt Angle: the angle at which a solar array is tilted towards the sun. Depending on the geographic location of a building, a solar array might be installed flat or tilted.

Utility Grid: the infrastructure that delivers electric power to homes and businesses. The utility grid is owned and managed by electric utility companies.

Utility Meter: a device that measures the flow of electricity between a site that uses electricity and the electric utility company.