Solar Energy Glossary of Terms

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Alternating Current (AC)

A form of electrical current, in which the direction of the flow of electrons changes back and forth at regular intervals. The electricity grid and most everyday household appliances use Alternating Current (AC).

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is a commercially oriented agency, which was established with an objective to make renewable energy solutions more affordable and increase the amount of renewable energy used in Australia.



The capacity of a solar power system is commonly its output in optimal circumstances. Capacity is measured in Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). 1kW = 1000W. Capacity can be referred to as the size of a system, e.g. 3 kW.


Direct Current (DC)

A kind of electrical current flowing consistently in the same direction. The current that flows in a flashlight or similar appliances, which runs on batteries, is Direct Current.



The ratio of output energy to input energy. Expressed as a percentage.

Electrical Current

A flow of electricity.

Electricity Grid

The electrical grid is an interlocked network, delivering electricity from suppliers to customers. Generating stations within the grid produce electricity, while high-voltage transmission lines carry power from sources to request centres and delivery lines connect individual customers.

Energy Distributor

Electricity distributors own and conserve the distribution networks, including power lines and poles, plus the natural gas pipelines carrying electricity and natural gas to residential and commercial addresses.

Energy Retailer

Organisations that deliver electricity and gas to residences and businesses.


Feed-In Tariff (FiT)

A Feed-in Tariff is an agreed amount paid to customers for any unused electricity produced by their solar power system and fed back to the electricity grid.


Gigawatt (GW)

A measure of power. 1GW = 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Gigawatt-Hour (gWh)

A measure of electricity use over a period of time. Refers to 1,000 megawatt of electricity supplied over one hour.

Grid-Connected PV System

An electricity generating solar PV system that is connected to the grid. It features solar panels, an inverter, a switch board and an electricity meter.

Gross Metering

A metering arrangement where all solar electricity generated is transferred to the electricity grid via a separate meter.



A solar inverter converts DC electricity (the energy produced by solar panels) into AC electricity. This is the energy that most household appliances rely on.


Kilowatt (kW)

A measure of power. 1 KW = 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)

A measure of use over a period of time. Refers to 1,000 watts of electricity supplied over one hour.



The amount of electricity used by any electrical unit or appliance at any given time.


Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

A measure of electricity use over a period of time. Refers to 1,000 kilowatt of electricity supplied over one hour.


A device that records the movement of electricity into a residential or commercial building.

Mounting Equipment

Equipment such as frames, brackets and clamps used to secure PV modules to the roof or ground.


Net Metering

The billing arrangement with your energy retailer that governs how you will be credited for excess renewable electricity transported to the grid.


Peak Demand / Load

The highest demand for electricity within a particular period of time.

Peak Sunlight

The time of the day when the energy received from the sun is at its peak.

Photovoltaic (PV) / Photovoltaic (PV) Effect

Technology that creates electric currents in a certain material, by exposing it to sunlight.

Photovoltaic (PV) Array

A group of multiple solar panels connected together and designed to supply solar power.

Photovoltaic (PV) Cell

AKA a solar cell – an electrical device that converts energy from light directly into electricity – via the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaic (PV) System

AKA a photovoltaic solar system – technology that converts energy generated from sunlight into electrical energy. Residential solar PV systems can offset your household’s power needs, depending on factors such as the size of the system and your household needs. It contains solar panels, inverter and safety switches.


Power is the rate at which energy is generated or used.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

An agreement in which a solar company pays for the installation and maintenance of a system for your residence or business at no upfront costs. You then purchase the power that the panels produce, at a rate that’s usually lower than what you’d pay your energy retailer. AGL’s PPA product is called Smart Plan.


Renewable Energy

Energy obtained from natural resources, which can be constantly replenished. This includes sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.

Renewable Energy Target (RET)

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target is a federal government policy that ensures at least 33,000 Gigawatt-hour of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.


Small-Scale Technology Certificate (STC)

Small-scale Technology Certificates are created to provide a financial incentive to install solar water heaters, heat pumps or solar panels in your residence or business. The certificates are part of a federal government program called the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, the details of which vary from state-to-state.

Solar Battery

A rechargeable solar battery, connecting a solar cell with battery power storage. It rations excess power so that it can be used to offset peak or night time use. Battery storage capacity is measured in KWh.

Solar Battery Bundle

A solar power system with the addition of batteries. These are used to store surplus power, so that it can be used to offset peak or night time use.

Solar Calculator

A device that helps you estimate solar system size and cost, based on your energy usage needs and lifestyle, ensuring that you have the appropriate system for your home.

Solar Cell

The silicon wafers used to make solar panels. In monocrystalline solar panels, the cells are shaped like a diamond. In polycrystalline solar panels, the cells are rectangular shaped.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is created from sunlight.

Solar Monitoring

A solar monitoring solution uses real-time monitoring of solar generation and home consumption, providing automatic fault and diagnosis alerts, in case of issues. Being able to identify and rectify issues quickly can result in an increase in system performance and potential savings.

Solar Panel

Also referred to as the solar system or solar power system, it is a unit consisting of solar photovoltaic materials, which turn sunlight into electricity. The system usually sits on the roof of a residence or business.

Solar Panel Orientation

By placing the solar panel system on a building site in a particular direction you can maximise the amount of sunlight it is exposed to. Ideal orientation for Australia is north.

Solar Panel Tilt/Pitch

This is the angle or tilt that the panels are facing towards the sky. On a flat roof, the tilt is 0°. If facing a wall, the tilt is 90°. Flat or 90° is not ideal, the recommended angle is 20-35°.

Solar Power

This is power generated by the sun, through either photovoltaic technology or secondarily using concentrated solar power. Photovoltaics use the photovoltaic effect to adapt light into an electric current, while concentrated solar power systems use lenses, as well as tracking systems to emphasise a large area of sunlight into a concentrated beam.


Storage refers to storing excess electricity produced by a system. Solar batteries are generally used as storage devices.


Watt (W)

The essential unit used to measure the capability of solar panels, plus other electricity producing devices.