Understanding The Basics of A Photovaltaic System
Having a basic understanding of how a PV solar system works will help you understand and feel more vested and in control during the PV solar installation process. Kama'aina Solar Solutions has compiled a list of the solar industry's most commonly used terms. If you have any questions feel free to call our solar customer service staff or if you have solar financing or solar tax credit questions see our solar financing page.
Alternating Current (AC) Power
AC power is the form of power that feeds all of our household appliances.
Direct Current (DC) Power
DC power is the form of power that is generated by photovoltaic modules and most battery sources. It's also the kind of power consumed by electric vehicles.
The grid is the entire network of power lines created by our local utility company that carries the electricity from the power plants to individual homes and businesses.
PV generates direct current (DC), but appliances and lighting require alternating current (AC). An inverter converts DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity, which is the exact same type of electricity you'd normally receive from your utility company.
A meter is an external device added to your home as a way for your electrical utility to measure your consumption and production. A standard meter only counts forward; a net meter counts forwards and backwards. If you want to go solar, you must also get a net meter installed.
A micro-inverter is a smaller inverter that fits behind each solar panel. This gives you the ability to maximize your energy production on a per-module basis, while allowing you to track energy production. Learn more about our solar PV Monitoring.
Net metering gives you the ability to sell your excess energy back to the grid and utility provider for a credit. With every kilowatt hour you earn during peak production times, your meter actually spins backwards. On rainy days or during night, your meter spins forward similar as it did before you had solar. At the end of the month if you have accrued more energy than was used you will receive an energy credit on your next electricity bill. This is referred to as 'Solar for Credit'.
Photovoltaic cells, commonly referred to as PV, rely on semiconductors and light to produce direct current (DC) electricity. When sunlight falls on the surface of the photovoltaic cell an electric field is created that drives electrons from negative to positive, forming a flow of electric current.
Racking is the equipment that holds the solar arrays onto your roof. Correct and professional installation of your solar racking system is important to avoid any roof leakage. Kama'aina Solar Solutions racking installation process far exceeds the solar industry standards, and ensures all of our solar PV installations are leak proof.
Solar Modules, Strings, and Arrays
Solar PV modules are collections of individual photovoltaic cells. Solar modules are connected together to form "strings," which are combined to form what's called an "array." The arrays are connected to your electrical system in order to deliver solar power to your home or business.
Watts and Kilowatts
The power a PV panel generates is rated in watts, this is the same as the rated power usage of a light bulb. An average PV panel has the energy capacity of 300 watts; as the individual panels are connected together to form an array the power potential is rated in units of kilowatts (kW) or 1,000 watts.