PV Basics

PV terms for Architects

Architecture terms for PV experts















PV basics

Charge controller:

Charge controllers are typically used in off-grid photovoltaic power systems. The primary function of a charge controller (or regulator) is to maintain the battery at the highest possible State Of Charge (SOC) and provide the user with the required quantity of electricity, while protecting the battery from deep discharge (by the loads) or extended overcharge (by the PV array). Additional features such as battery temperature or wire compensation, meters and alarms can enhance the ability of the charge controller to meet the load demand and extend battery lifetime.

Electric Energy:

The amount of work accomplished by electrical power, usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kWh is 1,000 Watts and is equal to 3,413 Btu.

Feed-in Law:

A legal obligation on utilities to purchase electricity from renewable sources.

Feed-in Tariff:

The price per unit of electricity that a utility or supplier has to pay for renewable electricity from private generators. The government regulates the tariff rate.

Grid-Connected PV system:

A PV system in which the PV array acts as a central generating plant, supplying power to the grid.


A mass of metal or semi-conducting material, heated past the melting point, and then recast, typically into the form of a bar or block.


Device that converts direct current (d.c.) into alternating current (a.c.) either for stand-alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid.

Off-grid PV System:

System installed in households and villages that are not connected to the utility grid. Usually, a means to store electricity is used (most commonly lead-acid battery), also known as "stand-alone photovoltaic power system".

On-grid PV System:

Systems connected to the utility grid.

Payback Time:

The length of time it takes for the savings received to cover the cost of implementing the technology.

Photovoltaic (PV) Module or Panel:

A solar photovoltaic product that generally consists of groups of PV cells electrically connected together to produce a specified power output under standard test conditions, mounted on a substrate, sealed with an encapsulate, and covered by protective glazing. Available as mounted on an aluminium frame. A junction box, on the back or underside of the module is used to allow for connecting the module circuit conductors to external conductors.

Photovoltaic (PV) Peak Power (Wp):

PV modules are rated by their total power output. The peak power is the amount of power output a PV module produces at standard test conditions (STC) of a module operating temperature of 25 degrees Celsius in full sunshine (irradiance) of 1 000 watts per square meter. This is a clear summer day with sun approximately overhead and the cells faced directly towards the sun.

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.

Silicon (Si):

A chemical element, atomic number 14, semi-metallic in nature, dark grey, an excellent semiconductor material. A common constituent of sand and quartz (as the oxide). Crystallizes in face-centred cubic lattice like a diamond. The most common semiconductor material used in making photovoltaic devices.

Solar Cell:

A basic photovoltaic device, which generates electricity when exposed to a light source such as solar radiation. All photovoltaic cells produce direct current (d.c.).

Solar Wafer:

A thin sheet of semiconductor material made by mechanically sawing it from a single-crystal or multi-crystal ingot or casting.

PV terms for Architects

The first is for the architects that would like to understand the vocabulary and technical themes used in the photovoltaic field.

To this moment only the Italian and French versions of the glossary are available. Translations in English and German will follow.

Thanks to : ISAAC-DACD-SUPSI BiPV competence centre (







Architecture terms for PV experts

To this moment only the Italian and French versions of the glossary are available. Translations in English and German will follow.

Thanks to : ISAAC-DACD-SUPSI BiPV competence centre (