We here at Pacific Energy know that while looking into solar panels, you may find tons of solar jargon that you just don’t understand. Let us help. Here is a list of some of the most common solar terms.


  • Alternating Current (AC)
    The type of electrical power supplied by utilities where the current reverses direction at regular intervals. This is the most common type of household electricity.
  • Array
    A group of solar panels wired together.
  • Cell
    The most basic component of solar modules.
  • CO2
    An abbreviation for carbon dioxide. CO2 is commonly known as a “green-house gas” and is what is being referenced when people speak of a “carbon footprint.”
  • Direct Current (DC)
    The type of electricity generated by solar panels. This current flows in only a single direction.
  • Grid
    In reference to utility power, it is a system of electrical transmission and distribution lines.
  • Grid Connected
    Solar power which generates electric for the utility grid. Also known as “on-grid” or “grid-tied.”
  • Grid Parity
    What occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at the levelized cost of electricity that is less than or equal to the price of purchasing power from the electricity grid
  • Inverter
    Electronically converts DC power into AC power and is required for grid connected solar systems.
    –Micro Inverters can be installed on each solar module. Typically more expensive but can have an advantage for small or complex PV systems.
    –String inverters are the most common type of inverter for homes and small commercial systems.
    –Central Inverters are used for very large PV systems.
  • Irradiance
    The amount of solar energy that strikes a surface during a specific time period. Measured in kilowatts.
  • Insolation
    A measure of the solar radiation energy in a given region. Usually expressed by the intensity of light energy per unit of land area.
  • Kilowatt (kW)
    One thousand watts of electrical power.
  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh)
    A unit of energy; one thousand watts of electrical power used or generated in one hour.
  • Megawatt (MW)
    A unit of power or capacity of a generator. 1MW = 1,000kW = 1,000,000W
  • Module
    Commonly called a “solar panel,” a PV module is made up of multiple solar cells connected together to increase solar power output.
  • Net-Metering
    A practice used (in some places) which allows solar electric systems to send excess electricity back into the utility.  If you generate more than you use, many utility companies will then give you a credit toward your next bill.
  • Photovolataics (PV)
    The direct conversion of light into electricity.
  • Solar Energy
    Radiant energy emitted by the sun.
  • Solar Panel
    A panel designed to absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity or heat.
  • Solar Power
    Power obtained by harnessing energy from the sun’s rays.
  • Watt (W)
    A unit of power; the amount of work done in a period of time.

Something not on our list? Visit the Department of Energy.