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Understanding the essentials of greenfield solar development



The greenfield solar development field is rapidly evolving and to match pace, understanding the solar industry terminology that fuels this innovation is crucial. That's why we've rounded up just the lingo you need to know, from A to Z, and put it all in one place. 

In this comprehensive guide, we've curated a collection of key terms, demystified industry buzzwords, and simplified complex concepts. 

Whether you're a seasoned solar professional or someone beginning to explore the renewable energy landscape, we're here to bridge the knowledge gap and shed light on the language that drives solar success.

So, read on, absorb the wisdom we've gathered, and find out how to propel your greenfield solar development initiatives to new heights. And remember, this guide isn't just for reading—it's a tool you can keep at your fingertips, ensuring you're never lost in the maze of solar jargon again.



The process by which solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into usable energy. Absorption is the fundamental mechanism that enables solar cells to generate electricity.


Albedo refers to the fraction of sunlight that a surface reflects. It is measured on a scale from 0 (for a black body that absorbs all incident radiation) to 1 (for a body that reflects all incident radiation). The scale reflected depends not only on the surface itself but also on the spectral and angular distribution of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface.

Amorphous silicon

A type of thin-film material used in solar cells for energy conversion. Understanding different materials used in solar cell manufacturing helps evaluate efficiency and performance.

Anti-reflective coating

A layer is applied to solar panels to reduce reflection and enhance energy absorption. Anti-reflective coatings improve overall panel efficiency by minimizing energy losses.


A collection of interconnected solar panels that collectively generate electricity. Arrays are the basic building blocks of solar installations, and their configuration impacts energy output.

Average variability

The average variability is the standard deviation of the annual energy production. In other words, it gauges the extent to which yearly energy production deviates from the average value.


The photovoltaic (PV) azimuth is the direction in which the PV panels face. For solar panels to work their best, they need to be pointed in a certain direction so they can soak up the most sunlight and generate the most energy. 

The azimuth angle is like the compass direction of where the sun or moon is in the sky. If something is right in front of you, it's 0 degrees. If it's to your right, it's 90 degrees. If it's behind you, it's 180 degrees. And if it's to your left, it's 270 degrees. 

With fixed-azimuth systems, the panels are almost always oriented toward the equator (0° azimuth in the northern hemisphere, 180° azimuth in the southern hemisphere).

The azimuth is insignificant if the panels are mounted horizontally (zero slope).


Frame 1460




A protective layer on the rear side of solar panels, guards against environmental factors and provides insulation. The back sheet contributes to the durability and longevity of solar panels.

Balance of System (BoS)

Components other than solar panels are necessary for a complete solar installation. BoS includes inverters, mounting systems, wiring, and other elements critical for system functionality.

Bifacial gain

Bifacial gain refers to the additional energy generation achieved by bifacial solar panels. These panels can capture sunlight not only from the front but also from the backside, reflecting light off the surface underneath the panels. Bifacial gain enhances the overall energy output of the solar system compared to traditional one-sided panels.

Bifacial solar panels

Solar panels are designed to capture sunlight from both the front and rear sides. Bifacial panels increase energy output by utilizing reflected and direct sunlight.

Battery storage

Storing excess solar energy in batteries for later use, especially during periods of low sunlight. Battery storage enhances energy self-sufficiency and grid independence. 



Cadmium telluride

A semiconductor material used in thin-film solar cells for efficient energy conversion. Knowledge of different semiconductor materials aids in assessing solar cell technologies.

Capacity factor

The ratio of a solar system's actual energy output to its maximum potential output. The capacity factor indicates the efficiency and performance of a solar installation.

Cell efficiency

The percentage of sunlight converted into electricity by a single solar cell. Cell efficiency is a key factor in evaluating the overall performance of solar panels.

Concentrated solar power (CSP)

A technology that uses mirrors or lenses to focus sunlight onto a small area, generating high-temperature heat for power production. CSP is an alternative approach to photovoltaic technology.

Contour lines

Contour lines are lines on a map that connect points of equal elevation, helping to visualize changes in terrain height and shape. They provide valuable information about the topography of an area, aiding in slope analysis, site planning, and understanding landscape features.


Distributed generation

Generating solar energy at the point of use, often on rooftops or within communities. Distributed generation contributes to local energy production and grid stability.

Direct current (DC)

An electric current that flows in one direction, is produced by solar panels. DC power generated by solar panels is converted to AC power for household use.

DC/AC ratio

The DC-AC ratio represents the relationship between the installed DC capacity (where solar cells produce DC power) and the power rating of the inverter in use.

If the DC-AC ratio is greater than 1, it signifies that the DC installed capacity exceeds the available inverter rating.

In simpler terms, when solar panels are operating at their peak, the inverter may not be able to handle the entire power output. This situation leads to a phenomenon known as inverter clipping loss. 

DHI or Diffuse horizontal irradiance

Diffuse horizontal irradiance is the sunlight that reaches the ground after bouncing off the sky. It's the part of sunlight that doesn't come directly from the sun itself.

DNI or Direct normal irradiance

Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) is a kind of sunlight that shines directly from the sun. DNI is used to figure out how much power Concentrating PV can make. Concentrating PV is a special way of collecting sunlight that focuses only on this direct sunlight and not the light that bounces off other surfaces.


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Duck curve

The duck curve is a graph that represents how much energy we need at different times of the day. In the morning, when people start using more electricity, the curve goes up a bit. 

Then, when the sun is strong and solar panels make lots of electricity, the curve goes down a lot because we have more energy than we need. But in the evening, when the sun sets and people use electricity for things like air conditioning, the curve goes up again because we need more energy. 

It's like a duck because it looks like a duck's back and belly. So, during the day, we have extra energy from the sun, but at night, we need more power.


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Efficiency loss

The reduction in energy conversion efficiency is due to factors like shading, dirt, or manufacturing defects. Identifying and minimizing efficiency losses enhances overall energy production.

Energy conversion efficiency

The ratio of converted sunlight to usable electricity in a solar panel. High energy conversion efficiency indicates the effectiveness of solar panels.

Energy storage

Storing surplus solar energy in batteries or other storage systems for use during periods of low sunlight. Energy storage enhances energy availability and system reliability.


Far shading

Far shading refers to the obstruction of sunlight on solar panels caused by objects or obstacles that are located at a considerable distance from the panels. These obstructions can cast shadows on the panels, reducing their exposure to sunlight and thus affecting their energy production.

Feed-in tariff

A policy in which solar energy producers are paid for excess electricity fed back into the grid. Feed-in tariffs encourage solar energy production and grid integration.

First-year production

First-year production represents the average energy production over the course of a year. Glint Solar computes energy production for every time interval within each year, using a default of 15 years.

Floating solar

Solar panels are installed on water bodies, utilizing untapped water surfaces for energy generation. Floating solar offers a solution for land-constrained regions.

Framed solar panels

Solar panels are encased in frames for protection, stability, and ease of installation. Framed panels are widely used in various solar applications.



Global horizontal irradiance

Global horizontal irradiance (GHI) is the sunlight that falls on a flat surface facing the sky. It includes the sunlight directly from the sun, the scattered sunlight, and the sunlight that bounces off the ground. GHI is used to calculate how much electricity flat solar panels can make.

Grid parity

The point at which the cost of solar energy equals or becomes competitive with traditional energy sources. Grid parity accelerates solar adoption and market expansion.

Grid-tied system

A solar setup is connected to the main electrical grid, allowing for energy exchange between the solar installation and the grid. Grid-tied systems enable excess energy sharing and net metering.

Ground coverage ratio

The GCR or Ground coverage ratio tells us how much of the ground is covered by our solar panels. It's like looking at how many solar panels we have compared to the space they take up on the ground.

Think of GCR as a measure of how crowded the solar panels are. If the GCR is high, it means the panels are packed closely together, and this can lead to more shading between them, which reduces efficiency.

But, there's no one-size-fits-all way to figure out GCR because it depends on different things:

The sensitive area can mean either the actual area the solar panels cover or the space they take up, including any gaps or inactive parts.

It's tricky to say exactly what counts as the ground area. Do we include the space around each panel, the entire solar system area, or even the pathways between panels? It can vary.

So, GCR can have different values depending on the situation and what we're using it for. In simple terms, it helps us understand how much of the ground our solar panels are using, but the exact way we calculate it can change depending on the context.


Hybrid inverter

A device that converts DC power from solar panels to AC power for household use, while also managing battery storage. Hybrid inverters optimize energy consumption and storage.

Hybrid solar system

A setup that combines solar panels with other energy sources like wind turbines or diesel generators. Hybrid systems ensure energy availability in diverse conditions.


Incident angle modifier (IAM)

A factor that accounts for energy loss due to the angle of sunlight on solar panels. IAM helps optimize panel orientation for maximum energy capture.

Incident angle reflection

Incident angle reflection refers to the phenomenon where sunlight strikes the surface of a solar panel at an angle, causing a portion of the light to be reflected away from the panel instead of being absorbed. This effect can reduce the efficiency of solar panels, as light that is not absorbed cannot be converted into electricity.

Installation angle

The angle at which solar panels are inclined is optimized based on geographical latitude. Proper installation angle maximizes energy capture.

Inter-row shading

Inter-row shading occurs when shadows are cast on solar panels due to objects or obstructions located between rows of solar panels in an array. These shadows can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by blocking sunlight from reaching certain portions of the panel surface.


A device that converts DC power generated by solar panels into AC power suitable for household use. Inverters are essential components of solar systems.


Junction box

An enclosure on a solar panel where electrical connections are made. The junction box ensures safe and secure connections for efficient energy transmission.

Junction temperature

The temperature of solar cells affects their efficiency and performance. Monitoring and managing junction temperature optimize solar panel operation.


Kilowatt (kW)

A unit of power measurement, equivalent to 1,000 watts. Kilowatts indicate the energy generation or consumption rate of solar systems.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

A unit of energy measurement is often used for billing purposes. Kilowatt-hours represent the total energy consumption or generation over a specific period.

Kilowatt-peak (kWp)

The maximum power output of a solar panel under standard conditions. Kilowatt-peak indicates the potential energy generation capacity of a solar panel.



The east-west position of a location influences solar panel orientation. Longitude impacts the ideal direction for solar panel placement.

Low-energy solar cells

Solar cells are designed for efficient energy conversion with minimal energy loss. Low-energy cells maximize energy yield from available sunlight.



A localized power grid that often incorporates solar energy for communities or specific areas. Microgrids enhance energy resilience and sustainability.


A device that converts DC power from individual solar panels into AC power. Microinverters improve panel-level energy conversion and system monitoring.

Module efficiency

The percentage of sunlight converted into electricity by a solar panel module. Module efficiency reflects the overall performance of solar panels.


Net metering

A system where excess solar energy is sent back to the grid earns credits for the energy producer. Net metering promotes energy sharing and cost savings.

Nominal operating cell temperature (NOCT)

The standard cell temperature is used for efficiency measurements of solar panels. NOCT accounts for varying temperature conditions.


Off-grid system

A solar setup that operates independently of the main electrical grid. Off-grid systems are suitable for remote areas or locations with limited grid access.


The angle and direction at which solar panels are positioned to optimize energy capture. Orientation determines the panel's exposure to sunlight.


PAN file

A PAN file contains the information of the photovoltaic module in text format. This file is an extension of the PVsyst software with details of how the PV module will perform in various temperature and irradiation conditions. 

Passivated emitter rear contact (PERC)

A solar cell design that enhances energy conversion efficiency by minimizing recombination losses. PERC technology improves overall panel performance.

Photovoltaic (PV)

A technology that converts sunlight into electricity using semiconductor materials. Photovoltaic systems are the foundation of solar energy generation.

PoA or plane of array

This idea is about something called "plane-of-array irradiance." It's like how much sunlight a solar panel can get when it's placed in a certain direction. Just like the other types of sunlight, this one is also measured in watts per square meter. We look at each type of sunlight on its own when we're figuring out the plane-of-array irradiance.

Preliminary design

A solar PV preliminary design is like drawing the first sketch of a project. Its goal is to give a quick outline of what a planned solar power system will look like and how it will work. This initial design helps you understand the basic details of the system you're planning to create.

PV tracking

Photovoltaic (PV) panels are usually fixed in one direction, but they can also move to follow the sun for better energy capture. These moving systems are called PV tracking systems, and they vary based on how they move and adjust.

  • No tracking (panels stay fixed, simplest and common)
  • Horizontal axis, monthly (panels move east-west, adjusted monthly for best sunlight angle)
  • Horizontal axis, weekly (panels move east-west, adjusted weekly for optimal sunlight angle)
  • Horizontal axis, daily (panels move east-west, adjusted daily for the best angle)
  • Horizontal axis, continuous (panels move east-west non-stop for ideal angle)
  • Vertical axis, continuous (panels stay fixed, but their direction changes to catch the sun's angle)
  • Two axes (panels move both horizontally and vertically to always face the sun. Highest power production but costly)


Quadrant pitch

Solar panel orientation is optimized to capture the most sunlight based on location. Quadrant pitch ensures optimal energy capture throughout the day.


Rated power

Rated power refers to the maximum power a solar panel can generate under ideal conditions.

However, it doesn’t mean that a panel will always generate that amount of electricity. 

Multiple factors can help you determine the right solar panel for your needs. Rated power is one such factor that can help you determine how many PV panels you need and the maximum power these panels can generate for you. 

Renewable portfolio standard (RPS)

Regulatory requirements that mandate a certain percentage of energy consumption from renewable sources. RPS policies promote renewable energy adoption.

Roof-mounted system

Solar panels installed on rooftops are often utilized in residential applications. Roof-mounted systems maximize space utilization and energy generation.



Soiling refers to the gathering of various things like snow, dirt, dust, leaves, pollen, and bird droppings on solar panels. When panels get dirty, they don't work as well, leading to power loss. The more dirt there is, the more power is lost.

Solar energy yield

The amount of electricity produced by a solar system over a specific period. Energy yield reflects the effectiveness of the solar installation.

Solar irradiation (GHI)

The amount of solar energy received per unit area. Solar irradiation is a key parameter for estimating energy generation potential.

Specific yield

A specific yield is a number that shows how much energy a solar system produces in its first year compared to its total capacity. It's calculated by dividing the energy produced in the first year by the total capacity of the system.

Spectral correction

Spectral correction is a method used in solar photovoltaics to adjust for differences in the solar spectrum and the spectral response of the solar cells. Solar panels are most efficient at converting certain wavelengths of light, and spectral correction ensures that the energy conversion calculations accurately reflect the available sunlight spectrum.

Spectral mismatch

Spectral mismatch is a correlation factor used to fix the differences in light between the solar cells in labs and real-world conditions. Solar cells in labs react differently to light than they do to sunlight. 

Standalone system

A solar setup that operates independently and is not connected to the main electrical grid. Standalone systems are commonly used in off-grid applications.

Standard test conditions

Standard test conditions or STC is a way to show how well PV modules perform. It's like a rule that says we measure them when it's 25 degrees Celsius outside, the sun's shining bright with 1000 watts of light per square meter, and the air is a certain thickness (AM1. 5). 


The base material on which thin-film solar cells are deposited. Different substrate materials can influence the performance and characteristics of solar panels.


Points of electrical interconnection that manage power distribution from solar installations. Understanding substations ensures proper integration into the electrical grid. 


Tilt angle

The inclination angle at which solar panels are installed is optimized for latitude. The tilt angle determines the ideal angle for capturing sunlight.

Thin-film solar cells

Lightweight solar panels using thin semiconductor layers for energy conversion. Thin-film technology offers flexibility and diverse installation options.


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

Solar rays beyond the visible light spectrum, are used for energy conversion in solar cells. UV radiation contributes to the energy conversion process.

Ultraviolet light

The portion of sunlight beyond the visible spectrum is used for energy conversion in solar cells. Ultraviolet light contributes to overall energy generation.



The electric potential difference in a solar cell determines the amount of energy produced. Voltage is a crucial factor in evaluating solar panel performance.

Voltage drop

A decrease in voltage is due to factors like distance in solar wiring. Minimizing voltage drop ensures efficient energy transmission.


Watt-peak (Wp)

The maximum power output of a solar panel under specific conditions. Watt-peak indicates the panel's peak energy generation capacity.


The unit of power measurement indicates the energy output of solar panels. Wattage quantifies the rate at which energy is generated or consumed.

Wind parks

Locations where wind turbines are installed to generate wind energy. Coordinating with wind parks optimizes land use for combined solar and wind projects.




A landscaping technique that uses drought-resistant plants to conserve water in solar installations. Xeriscaping promotes sustainable site management.

X-ray diffraction (XRD)

An analytical technique used to analyze the crystallographic structure of materials, including solar cell components. XRD aids in material characterization and optimization.


Yield estimation

Predicting the energy output of a solar system based on location, panel efficiency, and environmental factors. Yield estimation assists in evaluating energy generation potential.


Zero-emission energy

Energy generated without producing harmful emissions, is exemplified by solar power. Zero-emission energy solutions mitigate environmental impact.

High-fives all around for joining us on this solar language adventure! We hope your new-found knowledge has equipped you to tackle challenges, create meaningful conversations, and pave the way for solar innovation.

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