Deciding whether to invest in solar PV can be a difficult decision for homeowners, especially when solar vocabulary is misinterpreted. In order to get a clear understanding of certain terms surrounding solar power, this glossary is provided to shine a light on the technical terms that can often bewilder.
Renewable Energy: This refers to obtaining energy from naturally replenishing resources. Renewable energy resources include solar, wind, tide, hydropower, biomass and biofuels. They are used as an alternative to fossil fuels as they do not have the negative effects on the environment like fossil fuels do. Renewable energy can be used for transport and heat, not just electricity.
Solar PV (Photovoltaic): Solar PV involves producing electricity by converting sunlight into direct current using semi-conductors, which are usually made of silicone. Solar PV systems consist of cells containing photovoltaic material. Solar PV is used as a clean and renewable energy source. Solar Photovoltaic is becoming popular for homeowners as the use of solar PV reduces their electricity bills.
Solar Cell: Solar panels consist of solar cells. Solar cells convert photons into electrons by using the photovoltaic effect. This essentially means using sunlight to create electricity. Solar cells have an electric field that pushes the electrons in a certain direction, creating a current. Using a metal conductor to continue the flow of electricity means the electricity can be used to power the home.
DC/AC Inverter: An inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternative current (AC). Meaning battery power, which ranges from 12-14 volts, can be converted into mains power which is 240v. In solar panels, a DC/AC inverter converts the electricity the solar panels produce into alternative current so it's suitable for use from a mains socket.
Bidirectional Utility Meter: This meter gauges electricity used from solar panels, and electricity that a homeowner produces but does not use. The bidirectional utility meter spins backwards when excess electrical energy is generated and pumps the electricity into the national grid. The homeowner is then credited for producing the energy and supplying the grid. Solar panels do not produce energy at night so this causes the meter to spin forward, indicating the home is using power from the national grid. The credits that the homeowner acquires from pumping energy into the national grid, reduces their utility bills.
Feed-in Tariff: The feed-in tariff allows homeowners to get paid for every kilowatt hour of electricity they produce from their solar panels, regardless of whether they use it or not. The bidirectional utility meter calculates exactly how much a homeowner should be credited by the feed-in tariff. The feed-in tariff is a government incentive to encourage the use of renewable energy resources as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Microgeneration Certification Scheme: This is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme that shows a customer that the installer has met demanding and tested standards. It's a guarantee to customers that the company is committed to providing the highest quality installation.
The increased use of solar panels has made homeowners more curious of the financial and environmental aspects of installing solar PV systems on their homes. This is why understanding solar PV is mandatory to helping a homeowner decide whether to invest in solar panels.