Technical Terms

solar panelsThere are a myriad of terms, phrases and acronyms specific to Solar Power technical terms for residential and commercial solar panel industry. Some may be confusing; others may just be new to your particular vocabulary. Below, Skytech Solar is providing you with definitions for several commonly used technical terms.

Solar Power Technical Terms:

Balance of System

The Balance of System includes racking for the solar panels, roof integration equipment, wiring, and a conduit. When you have Skytech Solar just add solar panels and an inverter, you’ve got a home solar panel system!


Batteries aren’t needed with a grid-tied solar cells system. Why? Because the grid itself provides electricity when your rooftop solar panel systems aren’t producing power. All those credits you accumulate when the sun is shining does actually help pay down or completely negate the cost of electricity that you utilize at night or on a cloudy day!

The Grid

The “grid” is a network of power lines that carries and transmits electricity from large centralized power plants to individual homes and businesses. The ever-popular term “going off the grid” refers to a household that generates all of its own power via solar panels and no longer needs to rely on the grid for power. Skytech Solar systems are “grid-tied” (or connected to the grid) so that you can still power your house or business when the sun doesn’t shine –– at night, during a cloudy day, or during a rain storm. This enables you to take advantage of a variety of solar panel systems tax incentives, as well as state and municipal rebates that are available for solar power grid-tied systems.

Module Power Ratings

To help standardize measurement of a solar panel’s power output, several government rating agencies created power rating standards. The most common ratings are STC-DC and CEC-AC. Both ratings are widely used throughout the solar power industry, often together, and each measures the solar panel output in a slightly different way. Firs, a STC-DC (Standard Test Condition Direct Current) rating measures a panel’s output in ideal laboratory test conditions and is the standard global power rating for solar panels. Second, a CEC-AC (California Energy Commission Alternating Current) rating measures panel’s output in real life production conditions and factors in the solar panel systems’ inverter efficiency of converting DC to AC. FYI, the CEC-AC is always lower than the STC-DC rating, because it happens to calculate inefficiencies throughout the balance of the individual solar system.

Net Metering

When you install a grid-tied solar panel system, your utility monitors how much electricity your solar panels produce and how much electricity you use through a process known as net metering. If your home solar system generates more electricity than you use, you export that excess electricity to the grid and receive a credit from your utility. However, when you use more electricity than you generate, like at night, you draw it back off the grid as required. Your utility determines the difference between the electricity you generate and the electricity you draw from the grid, then sends you a bill you for the difference. Because the amount of solar power you’ll generate is greater during the summer months when the sun is up longer than in the winter, this balance is reconciled at the end of each year.

But if, at the end of the year, you’ve produced more electricity through your solar panel systems than you used, some utility companies will actually compensate you for this extra power while others won’t. Please contact your utility for up-to-date information about their Net Metering or Solar Bank program.


PACE is an acronym for Property Assessed Clean Energy. Many municipalities are in the process of setting up PACE programs that help their residents finance a solar system by paying it off through the annual property tax bill. Because most PACE programs have a corresponding relatively high interest rate, PACE financing typically is less cost-effective than a Skytech Solar Lease. However, a PACE program may be a possible option for people who do not live in our service area. Please note that as of the summer of 2010, legal complications are interfering with the rollout of most PACE programs.

Solar Lease

A Solar Lease is a legal agreement between you and Skytech Solar that specifies the size of the solar cells system that Skytech Solar will install and maintain, as well as the monthly fee that you will pay to Skytech Solar. Our Solar Lease comes with a performance guarantee. Simply, it promises the solar panels installed by Skytech Solar will produce the power agreed to in the contract. It also promises that any power generated above and beyond the guaranteed amount is yours to keep!

Solar Inverter

The solar inverter is the electrical box that turns direct current (DC) electricity produced by the solar panels in your solar power system into alternating current (AC) electricity. A grid-tied solar inverter allows this AC electricity to be sent back to the grid when your solar cells produce more energy than you use.

Solar Panels

Also known as solar modules or photovoltaic cells, solar panels are made up of silicon “cells” that absorb photons (sunlight) to create a photovoltaic (PV) effect, enabling the conversion of sunlight to electricity. (By the way, next to oxygen, Silicon just happens to be the Earth’s most abundant element and is used to make everything from computer chips and glass to cement and solar panels.) Solar panels are linked together to form “strings”, which are combined to form “arrays”. Each array is connected to your home via an inverter, delivering electricity to power your home or back to the grid, if your solar power system happens to produce more electricity than you use.


Depending on where you live, you typically get your power from a local municipality (e.g., SMUD, Sacramento Municipal Utility District) or from a large power-producer (e.g., PG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric Company). Utilities produce power and send it to your home or office via the grid.