Some solar technical terms and acronyms explained

Your guide to common abbreviations and technical terms relating to solar power


AC is short for alternating current – this is the form of electricity supplied through the grid to your house.


Building Integrated PV is where PV panels are used as part of the fabric of the building rather than added separately afterwards. Typically the panels make up some or all of the roof, serving to both generate electricity and keep the weather out.


Carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is a major cause of air pollution and climate change and is emitted when fossil fuels such as coal and oil are burned to produce electricity.


The government department of energy and climate change, responsible for policy and legislation relating to these important issues.

FIT (feed-in tariff)

A feed-in tariff is a funding mechanism used in many countries to encourage small-scale renewable energy technologies. Read more about how it works on our feed-in tariff page.

Fossil Fuels

Energy sources such as coal and oil are formed over millions of years from dead organic matter and are therefore known as fossil fuels. They are not renewable as once they are used they cannot be used again.


The device used to change DC electricity produced by solar panels to AC electricity used by your appliances.


The amount of energy received from the Sun. It is usually measured as the total during the course of a year for a given location.


A kilowatt is a unit of power equal to 1000 watts.


A kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy equal to the amount used (or produced) by a 1kW system over 1 hour (or a 2kW system over 30 minutes, etc.)


A kilowatt-peak is a measure of the power of a PV system under standard test conditions. A 2kWp system has twice the power of a 1kWp system.


Accreditation by the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) is needed for solar PV installers and products (for instance the panels and inverters) in order that a PV system is eligible to receive FITs,. MCS accreditation assures homeowners that their system conforms to standards and is safe.


Another name for a PV panel, a module is a number of solar cells (which produce electricity) connected together.


PV, short for photovoltaic, is a technology that turns sunlight directly into electricity.

Renewable Energy

A lot of energy production currently relies on burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Once they have been used they cannot be used again, so they are known as non-renewable. Energy sources such as the Sun, wind and tides are not used up and are called renewable energy sources.