Solar Energy Facts & Terms

Welcome to the solar energy facts and terms page. If you do not find the information you are looking for regarding solar panel installation or solar power systems, please call us and see if we can get the answers for which you seek.

Alternating Current (AC)

The electricity used in your home is AC, or Alternating Current. AC electricity changes voltage periodically, typically 60 times a second.

Ampere or AMP

A measure of the flow of electric current; abbreviated and commonly referred to as an amp.


The maximum usage that can be billed at the lowest price for a particular rate schedule. Baseline Quantity varies by season, climate zone and heat source.

Breaker Box

A breaker box holds all of your circuit breakers. Circuit breakers turn electricity on/off to areas of your house.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas that is present in the Earth’s atmosphere at a low concentration, and acts as a greenhouse gas. The most common global warming theories attribute temperature increases to increases in the greenhouse effect, caused primarily by human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2).

California Energy Commission (CEC)

“The California Energy Commission is the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. This body manages the Emerging Renewable Rebate program for solar power.”

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible for regulated, privately-owned telecommunications, electric, natural gas, water, passenger transportation, rail and publicly-owned rail organizations. The CPUC manages California Self-Generation Incentives Program, a program that handles projects greater than 30 kW in size.


Current is the flow of electrons in an electric circuit.

DC Lighting

Lighting loads that are able to run on direct current (DC). Typically lights in a home or business are powered by alternating current (AC). Many off-grid homes use DC lighting to avoid losses in the inverter.

Direct Current (DC)

The electrons in direct current flow in one direction. The current produced by a battery is direct current. Your solar system also produces direct current.

Electrical Loads

A load is anything that uses electricity.

Electric Service Panel

Often referred to as a “breaker box”, this panel houses the breakers or fuses that protect the electrical loads in your facility. Power coming from either the utility company or your solar electric system will be distributed to loads in your building from here.

Energy Audit

A process used to evaluate the usage of electricity in your home or building. The purpose of the process is to identify opportunities to reduce usage through equipment retrofits or repairs.

Expected Performance Based Buydown (EPBB)

This is an upfront rebate program funded as part of the CSI. Only systems smaller than 100kW are eligible for this rebate. Rebates are based on system size, geographic location, orientation and rebate level at time of application. Rebate levels decline as participation milestones are reached.


The infrastructure used by utility companies to distribute power to it’s consumers.


Refers to solar electric systems that are capable of feeding power to the grid (or utility company). This is in contrast to “off-grid” or “stand alone” systems that do not have this capability.

Ground Mount

A solar electric system that is mounted on an independent structure anchored to the ground. This is in contrast to systems that are mounted on a building roof.


The process of connecting equipment to a common ground or “earth”. This is done as a safety mechanism in order to avoid the unsafe energizing of equipment.


A device that converts direct current (DC) produced by solar modules to alternating current (AC) that is used by most appliances.


A unit used to measure power. Power is the product of current and voltage.


A unit used to measure energy consumption. This is the unit used by utilities to calculate your electric bill. It is the amount of energy consumed by a 1000-Watt appliance running for 1 hour.

Maximum power point tracking

(MPPT) is a technique that grid connected inverters, solar battery chargers and similar devices use to get the maximum possible power from one or more photovoltaic devices, typically solar panels.


This feature is crucial to owning a solar power system, and is encouraged as an add-on for all solar electric system owners, and it’s FREE with any of our residential solar electric systems. It’s the only way to accurately track your system’s production, and if your system isn’t producing, we’re alerted so we can send a solar professional to your home to service the panels. With monitoring, you can access your account online, track your solar generation, and follow your contribution to the health of the environment.

Net Metering

Agreement between the utility company and the system owner allowing for ‘banking’ excess power produced by a solar system in the electric grid and ‘drawing’ from the electric grid when more power is needed.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Pollutant gases produced by burning fossil fuels.


A system not connected to a utility grid that utilizes batteries to store electricity.


A system connected to the utility grid which utilizes the grid for backup energy.

Performance Based Incentive (PBI)

This is a program where rebates are paid based on energy production, designed to benefit owners of larger solar power systems The current PBI program in California pays system owners monthly for energy produced for 5 years. Rebate levels decline as participation milestones are reached.

Photovoltaic (PV)

A solar cell made up of semiconducting material which absorbs sunlight to produce electricity.
Photovoltaic Module Solar cells are typically combined into modules containing approximately 40 cells.
Power Electricity provided to a home, building, or community.

Roof Mount

Solar system attached to the roof of a residential or commercial building.

Solar Cell

A solar cell changes energy from the sun into electricity.

Solar Irradiance

The amount of solar energy that arrives at a specific area at a specific time.

Solar Module

Solar cells combined into a module with the purpose of harvesting solar energy.

Solar Noon

A time in which the position of the sun is at its highest point to collect solar energy.

Solar Panel

Photovoltaic device which converts light into electricity.

Solar Thermal Systems

Use of direct sun to produce heat or steam to warm pools or domestic hot water.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Pollutant, colorless gas with a choking odor produced by burning fossil fuels.

Time of Use

A rate schedule in which the utility customer is charged different amounts for power based on the time of day and season. Typically peak rates are during summer afternoons. Solar customers who generate power during peak rates will be credited by the utility company at those peak rates.


The rate at which energy is drawn from a source that produces a flow of electricity.

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