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Solar Energy Terms
& Definitions

Solar panels on top of a commercial buidling roof

Alternating Current (AC): AC is a type of electricity used in the electrical grid and most devices. An inverter is necessary to convert the Direct Current (DC) electricity generated by solar PV systems into AC electricity.

Behind-the-Meter (BTM)This term indicates that the solar system is installed on the consumer's side of the utility meter, allowing the generated electricity to be consumed on-site without exporting excess power to the grid.

​Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE): This is a financing structure in which building owners can borrow money for energy efficiency or renewable energy and make repayments via an assessment on their property tax bill.

Direct Current (DC): Solar panels capture DC power from the sun, and solar battery backup solutions store energy in the form of DC electricity. To power your building, the DC power from your solar PV system is converted into AC power through inverters.

Electric Vehicles (EV): These vehicles are powered by batteries, solar panels, or electric generators.


Fixed-Tilt Array: A configuration of solar power collectors that remains static and does not pivot to track the sun's movement across the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, they are angled in a southern direction to maximize their ability to capture energy.

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): This act provides billions of dollars in green energy tax credits to help consumers buy electric vehicles and companies produce renewable energy. The aim is to cut the nation's carbon emissions.

In-Front-of-Meter (IFM): This term refers to energy-related activities that occur on the utility side of the grid, involving large-scale energy generation, transmission, and distribution, managed by utility companies.

Interconnection: Interconnection involves linking transmission lines between utilities or between a utility and an end-user, enabling power to be moved in either direction. It's a necessary step to connect solar system to the local utility grid.

Inverters: Inverters convert the DC electricity generated by solar panels into AC electricity for use. Modern inverters also include safety features to prevent power from flowing back to the grid during grid outages, known as anti-islanding.

Investment Tax Credit (ITC): Also known as the Federal Solar Tax Credit, it provides income tax credits for projects aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of residential and commercial buildings. The credit gradually decreases over time.

kWh (Kilowatt-hour): A unit of energy used to measure the amount of electricity consumed or generated. It's how utility companies measure electricity sent to or from a home or commercial building.

Micro Inverter: Microinverters convert electricity from individual solar panels, meaning that a solar installation has as many micro inverters as it has solar panels.

NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners):  The most respected, well-established and widely recognized certification organization for professionals in the field of renewable energy.

Net Metering: Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they feed back into the grid.

Photovoltaic (PV): PV cells, or solar cells, directly convert sunlight into electricity, and some can even convert artificial light.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A PPA is a solar financing option that offers immediate cost savings without an upfront payment. It allows purchasers to lock in low rates for solar electricity for up to 25 years, but they don't own the system.

Racking and Mounting: Racking and mounting refer to the methods used to secure solar panels to roofs, walls, or the ground, using flashings and clamps along horizontal rails.

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP): Established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this program supports rural businesses and agricultural producers in adopting renewable energy technologies.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): Also known as solar energy credits or green tags, RECs are tradable certificates representing one megawatt-hour of electricity generated from renewable sources.

String Inverters: String inverters are devices used with solar arrays to convert DC energy into usable AC electricity for homes. They are connected to multiple solar panels, and their performance is limited by the worst-performing panel.

Heard a solar term not listed here? Reach out to us and we'll add it.

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