Glossary~Here are some of the top used solar terms for your solar literacy:

Alternating Current (AC):  an electric current that changes its direction very frequently at regular intervals

Ambient Temperature: The temperature of the surrounding area.

Array:  The number of, order and placement of your modules

Azimuth Angle: The angle between true south and the point on the horizon directly below the sun.

British Thermal Unit (BTU):  The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit

Direct Current (DC):  An electric current flowing in one direction only and substantially constant in value

Disconnect:  Switch gear used to connect or disconnect components in a photovoltaic system

Electrical Unit:  The flow of electrical energy (electricity) in a conductor, measured in amperes.

Inverter:   A device that converts direct current electricity to alternating current either forstand‐alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid

Kilowatt (kW):  A standard unit of electrical power equal to 1000 watts, or to the energy consumption at a rate of 1000 joules per second.

Kilowatt Hour (kWh):  1,000 thousand watts acting over a period of 1 hour. The kWh is a unit of energy. 1 kWh=3600 kJ.

​Life:  The period during which a system is capable of operating above a specified performance level.

Photovoltaic (PV) Module:  The smallest environmentally protected, essentially planar assembly of solar cells and ancillary parts, such as interconnections, terminals, (and protective devices such as diodes) intended to generate direct current power under unconcentrated sunlight. The structural (load carrying) member of a module can either be the top layer (superstrate) or the back layer (substrate).

Photovoltaic (PV) Panel:  Often used interchangeably with PV module (especially in one-module systems), but more accurately used to refer to a physically connected collection of modules (i.e., a laminate string of modules used to achieve a required voltage and current).

Photovoltaic (PV) System:  A complete set of components for converting sunlight into electricity by the photovoltaic process, including the array and balance of system components.

Power Optimizer:  a DC/DC converter which is connected by installers to each PV module, replacing the traditional solar junction box.  Power optimizers increase energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually and power optimizers monitor the performance of each module and communicate performance data to an online monitoring system.

Orientation:  Placement with respect to the cardinal directions, N, S, E, W; azimuth is the measure of orientation from north.

String:  A number of photovoltaic modules or panels interconnected electrically in series to produce the operating voltage required by the load.

Watt:  The rate of energy transfer equivalent to one ampere under an electrical pressure of one volt. One watt equals 1/746 horsepower, or one joule per second. It is the product of voltage and current (amperage).

For a more complete solar glossary click here:  SOLAR GLOSSARY

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar Photovoltaics:

How many solar panels do I need to produce enough electricity to run my house?

The amount of solar panels called the "array" you need depends on your average electrical usage, roof angle, climate and possible shade issues in addition to other factors depending on your home.  The more energy you use the bigger your array.  At NuSolar we like to do an energy audit prior to the bid to see if we can lesson that usage before putting a system up. 

Why should I go solar now when I hear that the price will drop?

The price of solar may or may not drop.  Even if it does drop we predict that it will not drop significantly enough to justify waiting.  Additionally, the cost of labor will stay the same or rise along with PG&E rates and interest rates if you are going to finance.  Once your solar system is installed the savings starts IMMEDIATELY.  So why wait to start saving NOW?  The waiting would literally cancel out if not cost you more than any cost savings on the system!!!  

Will Solar Increase the Value of My Home?

YES!!!  Making your home energy efficient not only makes it more appealing to buyer's, research has stated that solar increases the value of your home by a $5,900 Resale Value Increase Per Installed Kilowatt.  The article:  Study Shows Rooftop Solar Adds Thousands to Home Resale Values  is a great explanation of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study.  

Will a system produce enough energy to cover all my electricity needs?

Yes and No.  It really depends on how much energy you use and how much space you have for solar.  

Will my system work at night?

No.  Your system uses the sun's energy to create electricity.  Since the sun is not out at night your system won't work; however, any overproduction (when your system creates more than you use) you have during the day will be stored as credits with PG&E and will help cover your costs when your system is "asleep."

Will my system work on cloudy days?

Yes; however, it won't produce as much power as it would on very sunny days.  This is where Net Energy Metering (NEM) comes in to play.  Your overproduction in the summer banks credits with your electric company for use when you system isn't producing as much.

What happens during a power outage?

No.  Because the inverter which converts the solar power from DC to AC uses power from the grid to do its job.  No power, no converting.  

Is shade a problem?

No.  Shad is not a problem for us.  NuSolar Technologies uses Power Optimizer Technology that allows each panel to perform independently at maximum output to give you the best system performance possible. Which means, even if part of your system is shaded at some point in the day the rest of the system would continue without Power Optimizer Technology do NOT continue to produce if one panel is shaded.

What are the benefits of purchasing a solar system over leasing?

If you purchase a system you are entitled to the 30% tax credit offered by the feds...if you lease the company that installs the system can get that credit. In addition, the return on investment is pretty much non-existent when you lease as you will never own the system so the only true investment is saving on a portion of your electric bill while also paying the lease. There is a link on our home page that talks about the benefits of purchasing over leasing and mentions that the new buyer of a home with a system that is leased will have to qualify to take over the lease along with purchasing the home...another stress added to both buyer and seller during the already stressful process of selling your home or becoming a homeowner.

What does "Return on Investment" mean?

Return on investment is frequently decided by the “return” (incremental gain) from an action divided by the cost of that action. That is the "simple" version of this cash flow metric, used for evaluating investments, business case results, and other actions. For example:  What is the ROI for a solar program expected to cost $20,000 and deliver an additional $5,000 in additional power over the next 20 years?

Simple ROI:  Gains/Investment Costs = $5,000/$20,000 = 25% which is roughly a 1.25% ROI per year.

To calculate simple return on investment, divide the net gains from the investment by the investment costs. Present the result as a percentage.  For solar we also take into account tax credits and rebates, inflation, interest if you finance your system, etc. 

What is the average return on investment?

The average payoff period and amount of ROI varies by individual install but in essence, the more electricity a family uses the more a Solar PV/Thermal system saves them thus a greater ROI and quicker system payback period. Paying cash brings around a quicker ROI too because there is no interest taken into account when paying cash amongst other things. Currently our average payoff or payback period for the system is a 4 - 6 year time frame with a 21.06% return.

What other options do I have if the system cannot be mounted on my roof?

If a system cannot be mounted on your roof you can do what is called a ground mount.  A ground mount is an array which is mounted to the ground and positioned at the best azimuth angle, facing the best direction and placed in an area on your property with the greatest sun exposure.  

If I rent or lease a home or apartment, can I still get a system?

You can't get a system, but you can try to talk your landlord in to it. 

What is net metering?

PG&E has a great tutorial on Net Metering.  Please check it out by clicking here.

Are government incentives available to reduce the price?

Yes.  We covered this on our Federal Tax Credits and Rebates page.

Can the modules withstand high winds and hail?

Yes.  Solar panels themselves are built using tempered glass for durability and safety and are designed to withstand hail and high winds (up to 125 mph). 

How long will my solar power system last?

Solar panels or modules have an engineered useful life of 25-40 years.  We only use panels that offer a 25-year warranty.  

How can I tell how my system is performing?

NuSolar Technologies uses SolarEdge Power Optimizer Technology which allows you to view your systems performance on line.  You can also watch your smart meter spin backwards!!!

What maintenance does the system require?

coming soon

How much does the maintenance cost?

coming soon

Do I need a building permit?

Yes.  NuSolar handles all of the permitting paperwork and fees.

Do I need permission from the local utility to connect my solar system to the grid?

coming soon

Do I need approval from my homeowners' association?

coming soon

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar Thermal:

Will my system work at night?

No.  Your system uses the sun's energy to create electricity.  Since the sun is not out at night your system won't work; however, any overproduction (when your system creates more than you use) you have during the day will be stored as credits with PG&E and will help cover your costs when your system is "asleep."

Will my system work on cloudy days?

Yes.  Our solar thermal evacuated tubes are heated by UV Rays rather than direct sunlight.  .

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