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Common Solar Terminology - The Ultimate Definition Guide

Posted 3/5/21 | Filed under Solar Education | Comments (0)

Each day, millions of new people are looking to green energy as a solution for long term energy concerns. For all of those new to solar and green energy, understanding the basic lingo can be quite daunting. We are happy to say things just got a lot easier!

We took the liberty of putting together a comprehensive guide explaining the most common terms and their meanings, when discussing solar, wind and battery backup systems.

Electricity - Units of Measurement

Volts/Voltage (V) - The pressure from an electrical circuit's source of power that pushes charged electrons (current) through a conducting circuit. (For example, battery voltage is typically between 3V-42V, U.S home power is 120V, with many parts of the world (Europe for example) being 240V)

Alternating Current (AC) - An electrical current, in which the direction of the flow of electrons switches back and forth at regular intervals. (Normal household electricity that comes from a wall outlet is alternating current).

Direct Current (DC) - Direct current is the constant flow of electrons from an area of high electron density to an area of low electron density. One direction flow of energy. (Commonly found in a battery source).

12V/120V/240V - This refers to the previously mentioned pressure from an electrical circuit’s source of power. Higher voltage = more efficient energy transfer. (Examples: 12V – Car Battery. 120V – United States wall outlet grid power. 240V – European wall outlet grid power, also commonly seen on high power items in the US such as washer/dryers, electric stoves and large pumps)

Amps/Amperage/Amperes (A) - Unit of electric current in the International System of Units (SI), which represents a flow of one coulomb of electricity per second. (An air conditioner for example may draw 8 Amps to operate)

Amp Hours (Ah) - An Amp Hour is a unit of electric charge, having dimensions of electric current multiplied by time, equal to the charge transferred by a steady current of one ampere flowing for one hour. (A car battery for example may store 100 Ah of power, meaning it can power 1 amp for 100 hours).

Milliamp Hours (mAh) - One-thousandth of an ampere hour. (1 Ah = 1,000 mAh)

Watts/Wattage (W) - A unit of power. Watts equates to Volts times Amps (W = A x V) (An air conditioner for example may draw 1,000 watts to operate)

Battery Terminology

Deep Cycle - Deep cycle batteries are designed to cycle (discharge and recharge) many times.

Lead Acid/Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) - Uses sponge lead and lead peroxide for the conversion of the chemical energy into electrical power. Low cost, commonly found in vehicles, solar systems and Uninterrupted power supplies (UPS).

Absorbent Glass Mat - (AGM) - A class of lead-acid battery in which the electrolyte absorbs into a fiberglass mat.

Gel Battery - Sealed, valve regulated lead-acid deep cycle battery that has a gel electrolyte. Unlike flooded lead-acid batteries, these batteries do not need to be upright. (Commonly found in automobiles, aircrafts and boats).

Lithium Ion (Li-ion) - Uses lithium manganese oxide or lithium cobalt dioxide for the conversion of the chemical energy into electrical power. Higher cost, longer lifespan, commonly found in smart phones and tablets.

Lithium iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) - Lithium iron phosphate has a cathode of iron phosphate and an anode of graphite for conversion of chemical energy into electrical power. Has excellent discharge rates at higher temperatures. Excellent chemical and thermal stability. Commonly found in medical devices and Electric motors for vehicles that will experience higher environmental temperatures.

Battery Cycle - Used to estimate battery life. A battery cycle represents what happens when the battery is fully charged and then entirely drained to empty. This represents (1) cycle.

Battery Maintenance - Represents the proper handling and procedure in maintaining a battery source to extend the total lifespan.

Solar Panels (PV):

Wattage (W) - The wattage rating of a solar panel represents the amount of power created by the panel within 1 hours’ time.

Photovoltaic (PV) - The conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials.

Polycrystalline - A type of solar panel, created from silicon, composed of many fragments of silicon melted together, to form wafers. Because of the increased number of crystals in each cell, there is less room for electrons to move, resulting in a slightly less efficient panel.

Monocrystalline - A type of solar panel, created from single-crystal silicon. The silicon is first formed into bars and then cut into wafers. The electrons that generate a flow of electricity have more space to move, resulting in a more efficient power production rate.

Thin Film - A type of solar panel, created by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto a solid surface. Thin Film Solar panels require the most space for the same power production, but they work very well in low light conditions and can be bent into custom shapes for space accommodation purposes.

PV Junction Box - Wires the panel connectors together and is the output interface of the solar panel.

Charge Controller - Limits the rate at which electric current is added to or drawn from a battery source.

MC4 Connector - Single-contact electrical connectors commonly used for connecting solar panels.

Line Loss - The amount of power that is lost during transmission of electricity in a circuit.


Inverter - Converts direct current (DC) power to alternating current (AC) power.

Inverter Charger - Converts direct current (DC) power to alternating current (AC) power and allows for simultaneous recharging.

Parallel - A means to complete an electrical circuit. Has two or more paths for current to flow through. Voltage remains the same across each component of the parallel circuit. The sum of the currents through each path is equal to the total current that flows from the source. (For example, - to - and + to +, voltage remains the same while amps increase two-fold).

Series - A means to complete an electrical circuit. Comprises a path along which the whole current flows through each component. (For example, - to +, voltage will double in this connection while maintaining the same number of amps).

Fuse - A device which interrupts the flow of current in an electrical circuit. Features a high resistivity and low melting point, protecting the devices connected to the circuit from potential damage.

We hope this short guide provided illumination and direction for an otherwise confusing topic. If there was anything we missed that you would like clarification on, please comment below! As always, we are just a phone call away (877-548-3387) and are happy to offer our expertise on all of your Solar Education needs!
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