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Glossary of Terms

Wanting to learn more about portable solar for your RV or 4x4 and confused about some of the industry and technical terms being mentioned? REDARC has you covered with this handy overview of common portable solar terms.

 

The A - Z of common portable solar terms

 

 

Amorphous Amorphous is a term used for something that has no specific shape or form.  With regards to solar panels it refers to the fact that the silicon structure of the panel is random and does not follow any recurring pattern.

 

Amp hours Amp hours is a measure of stored power.  Amp hours is the number of Amps drawn, for the amount of time in hours that you draw that current.  Amps x hours = AH

 

Amps Amperes (or Amps), is the measure of electric current.  One Amp is equal to a number of electrons passing a point in a circuit each second.

 

Anti-reflective With reference to solar, anti-reflective refers to the coating applied to the outside of a solar panel designed to reduce the amount of energy from the sun which is reflected back from the panel.  Less energy reflected back means more potential energy which can create electricity.

 

Appliance An appliance is another term for a load, but is more commonly used when referring to everyday devices.

 

Battery A battery is a combination of two or more cells made up of an acid and metallic plates designed to generate electrical energy.

 

 

Block-cast Block cast refers to the process involved in combining crystals to form a poly-crystalline structure.

 

Charge Charge refers to the amount of electric energy stored in an object.  To ‘charge’ a battery is to increase the amount of electric energy stored in it.

 

Charge Profile The chemical and physical make up of a battery determines the best voltage, current and timing method used to recharge the battery.  This method is referred to as a ‘Charge Profile’, and should be followed to ensure the maximum life and performance of your battery.

 

Crystalline Silicon Crystalline silicon is the name given to solar cells manufactured in such a way that the silicon forms a tetrahedral lattice structure.  Crystalline silicon cells can be manufacture using block-cast silicon or grown to form crystals.

 

Deep Cycle Deep cycle refers to thedesign and usage of a particular battery.  A deep cycle battery is designed to be heavily discharged before being recharged.

 

Doped/Doping The term doping refers to the addition of a foreign substance to alter the qualities of an existing substance.  With reference to solar this occurs when substances are added to the silicon in the solar cells to increase or decrease the total amount of electrons in the substance.

 

Drain Drain is the term given to the loss or usage of charge in a system.  Loads or appliances will drain the charge from a battery.

 

 

Efficiency Efficiency is a ratio, usually expressed as a percentage, of the energy produced by something versus the energy supplied to it.  With reference to solar panels efficiency is the energy supplied by the panel vs. the energy supplied to the panel by the sun.

 

Electrode An electrode is a conductor at the point where current enters or leaves a medium such as a battery cell. Electrons Electrons are negative particles found orbiting each element. 

 

Holes With reference to doping describes what happens when a substance is added to silicon to increase the amount of electron receptacles, or make the compound more positive.

 

Ingot An Ingot is the term given to the grown or block cast crystals before they are cut into wafers.

 

Interconnected Interconnected refers to two or more devices connected together to form a system working towards a common goal.  With reference to solar interconnected usually refers to solar panels connected together to create a larger solar array.

 

Inverter An inverter is a device designed to convert a DC voltage (12V or 24V usually) to an AC voltage.  Inverters are generally used to run 240VAC appliances such as fridges and televisions in DC electrical systems such as caravans.

 

Lattice A lattice is a structure which follows a recurring pattern.

 

Load With reference to electronics, a load is any device connected to an electrical system which draws power from the electrical system.

 

Metallic Metallic is a term used to describe the elemental make up of a substance.  Metallic compound are compounds which contain a metal.

 

Mono-crystalline Mono-crystalline with reference to silicon solar cells refers to the fact that the whole cell follows a uniform structure as it is grown to form a single crystal.

 

MPPT Maximum Power Point Tracking is the term given to the process of matching a solar regulators load to the voltage and current from the solar panel in order to achieve the greatest output power.

 

N-type silicon N-type silicon is ‘doped’ with additives which create a higher number of electrons making the silicon compound more negative.

 

Parallel With reference to electronics, items connected between two points so that one end of each item in parallel is connected to each point.  Two power sources connected in parallel will increase the generated current whilst the voltage stays the same.

 

Peak sunlight Peak sunlight refers to the time of the day when the energy reaching the earth from the sun is at its peak at any given location.

 

Photovoltaic Photovoltaic means electricity from the sun and is the term given to any device that can convert the suns energy into a usable electrical current.

 

Poly-crystalline Poly-crystalline with reference to silicon solar cells refers to the fact that multiple silicon crystals are used to form the solar cell.

 

P-type silicon P-type silicon is ‘doped’ with additives which create a higher number of ‘holes’, making the silicon compound more positive.

 

Recharge Recharge means to restore the potential electrical energy in an object that has previously been drained.

 

Series With reference to electronics, items connected so that current passes through each item in turn.  Two power sources connected in series will increase the generated voltage whilst the current stays the same.

 

Solar Cells Solar cells are cells made from a photovoltaic material, usually silicon based.  Each solar cell in a standard crystalline silicon array will output around 0.5V.

 

Solar Panel Solar panels are an array of solar cells setup to provide a usable output voltage (12V or 24V nominal) and current.  The solar cells are interconnected in both series and parallel to achieve this.

 

Solar Regulator Solar regulators take and input from solar panels and convert this to a suitable output to charge a battery. Sunlight hours Sunlight hours is a term given o the amount of hours in the day where there is enough sunlight to generate power from a solar panel.

 

Tetrahedral Tetrahedral is a means that a shape has a structure consisting of 4 lateral planes.  It is a three dimensional shape.

 

Volts Volts is a unit of electromotive force, the volt measures how much “potential” there is in an electric circuit.  The higher the voltage, the more electrical current will flow in the circuit.

 

Wafer A wafer is the term given to a solar cell cut from the grown crystal or block-cast crystal combination.

 

Watts The Watt is the basic unit of power.  It is named after the eighteenth-century Scottish inventor James Watt.  Power = Voltage x Current, so Watts = Volts x Amps.

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