10 Essential Community Solar Terms

Solar energy production is growing FAST around the country but many people still have questions. We answer them every day talking to consumers about community solar in Maryland. Here are 10 common solar terms you may encounter while doing some research.

Community Solar: Community solar is a shared solar energy system where multiple individuals or organizations collectively benefit from the electricity generated by a single solar installation. It allows people who may not have suitable roofs for solar panels or who cannot afford individual installations to access clean and renewable energy. Essentially, it’s a way for communities to come together and support the transition to sustainable energy while also enjoying cost savings and environmental benefits of solar power.

Electric (or Electricity or Utility) Grid: An electric grid, also known as a power grid or electricity grid, is a complex network of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure that delivers electricity from power plants to consumers. It consists of power plants (such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, and solar), transmission lines, substations, transformers, distribution lines, and various control systems. The grid enables the efficient and reliable transfer of electricity over long distances and ensures that electricity is available whenever and wherever it is needed. The most well known example of this is power lines. Today, with the rise of sustainable options, many traditional utility companies are adding more and more renewable energy to their grids.

Kilowatt Hour: A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of energy commonly used to measure electricity consumption. It represents the amount of energy consumed by using one kilowatt (kW) of power for one hour. 

For example: If you run a 1,000-watt (1 kilowatt) appliance for one hour, you would consume 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity. Similarly, if you run a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours, it would also consume 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity (100 watts x 10 hours = 1,000 watt-hours = 1 kilowatt-hour). ✨

Kilowatt-hours are used by utility companies to bill customers for electricity usage and are an important measure for understanding and managing energy consumption.

Net Metering: Net metering is a billing arrangement used by utility companies that allows anyone who produces renewable energy to receive credits for the excess electricity they generate and send back to the grid. 

Here’s how it works: When a solar energy system produces more electricity than the customer is currently using, the excess electricity flows back into the grid. With net metering, the utility company credits the customer’s account for the excess electricity at the same retail rate they would have paid to consume that electricity. This effectively “spins the meter backward,” offsetting the customer’s future electricity bills.✨

Net metering enables customers to maximize the financial benefits of their solar or renewable energy investment by reducing their electricity costs and potentially earning credits that can offset future electricity bills. It also encourages the adoption of renewable energy systems and supports the integration of distributed generation into the electric grid.

Renewable energy: Renewable energy refers to energy sources that are naturally replenished and can be used indefinitely without depleting the resource. This includes not only solar energy but also wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass energy. Solar energy is undoubtedly one of the most abundant and widely available forms of renewable energy and is 💯 FREE!

Solar Array: A solar array refers to a collection of multiple solar panels or modules arranged together to capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. These solar panels are typically mounted on a support structure, such as a roof or ground-mounted rack, and connected to each other to form an array. Solar arrays come in various sizes and configurations, ranging from small residential installations to large-scale utility solar farms. They are designed to efficiently capture solar energy and generate electricity for use in homes, businesses, or to feed into the electrical grid.

Solar energy: Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the ☀️ that is harnessed using various technologies to generate electricity or heat water for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. This renewable energy source is abundant and sustainable, making it an increasingly popular alternative to fossil fuels. It plays a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating climate change, and promoting energy independence.

Incentives/Tax Credits: These incentives aim to encourage the adoption of renewable energy or energy efficiency practices, whether by joining Maryland community solar programs, investing in energy-efficient appliances, or transitioning to electric vehicles. They typically come in the form of tax credits, rebates, or credits and are applied directly to your utility bill.

Solar Panels: These devices, known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, transform solar energy into usable power at locations equipped with solar panel installations. Initial expenses and construction requirements are necessary, and ongoing maintenance is essential. However, not all areas are suitable for accommodating solar panels, limiting renewable access. That’s why there’s Maryland Community Solar! Everyone with a utility bill qualifies.

Virtual Net Metering: In this form of net metering, numerous individuals can collectively enjoy the advantages of a centralized solar energy system, such as a local solar farm. Each participant receives credits on their electricity bill, reflecting their share of the system’s output as if it were installed at their own residence or place of business.

Have more questions? Check out our FAQ page or contact us at info@mdcommunitysolar.org or (410) 368-0191. We want to help YOU access community solar in Maryland and start reaping the benefits.

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