Ground Mounted Solar Panels
Published at - August 29, 2021
7 min read
If you are following our blogs, you may have noticed that until now the centre of our attention was the rooftop solar panels. Partly because rooftop solar panels are easy to install and partly because they don’t require added space, most people prefer rooftop solar systems. However, solar panels can also be placed on the ground. This specific type of solar system is called a ground-mounted solar system.
In this blog, we are going to discuss ground-mounted solar panels. Narrating its mechanism, installations, pros and cons, we are going to assist you in making your decision on the place of your solar panel installation.
What is a Solar Ground Mount?
Solar Panels can be placed anywhere in the form of solar arrays regarding the exposure of sunlight. Unlike rooftop solar panels, ground-mounted solar panels are placed on the ground. A ground-mount is a solar panel attached to the ground with a rack-like structure, along with a steel beam or other metal post. Ground-mounted solar panels are adjusted in such a way that they can get the highest exposure from the sun. They are usually installed in open spaces like fields, open lawns and parking lots. We just need to make sure that the spot where we are installing the panels are not shadowed by any external body. In essence, wherever in the ground the situation is ideal for solar panels, a ground mount can be installed.
Why People Generally Prefer Roof-top Solar Panels?
There are various reasons why people prefer Rooftop solar panels over Ground-mounted solar panels. One of them is the simple misconception that rooftop solar panels work more effectively than ground-mounted solar panels. If you have an enormous space in the ground that is exposed to sunlight, there is no reason to install solar panels on the ground. However, in specific cases, the rooftop solar panel is a better choice. Let us explore why-
- To install ground-mounted solar panels you need the space advantage. In most cases, we don’t have many free spaces in the ground. The house we live in might not have an enormous lawn or a field we own nearby. Often the free spaces on the ground are used for different purposes and therefore, solar panels cannot be installed. On the contrary, rooftops are generally free spaces and are most often unused. Therefore, people often prefer rooftop solar panels to ground-mounted solar panels.
- Another reason solar panels are commonly installed on the rooftop is that the rooftops are higher than the ground and are exposed to more sunlight. Often the lawns and the fields are overshadowed by buildings, houses and large trees. Therefore, the roof has more sunlight advantage than the ground. You can’t break down buildings and cut down trees for solar projects- therefore you might want to install the panels on the roof.
- Cost is another factor for preferring rooftop solar panels. Typically installation cost is higher for ground-mounted solar panels. Why? We shall try to explain in the next segment.
- Ground-mounted rooftops are exposed and often easier for unauthorized visitors to access. A child playing on the lawn, a construction worker carrying his equipment, cattle grazing in the fields or wild animals lurking in the dark may cause damage to your panels. Also, the ground is more exposed to dust, debris, and insects. These may cause damage to your panels. In essence, the exposure to unexpected visitors makes the ground-mounted panels vulnerable.
- Ground-mounted rooftops limit the use of lands, while the roof is often largely a free space. If you have a sloped roof, you can only use it for power generation through solar panels. People consider the use of the land that will be used to install solar panels because once it is installed the land can never be used.
These are reasons why the rooftop is most often the preferable spot for solar panel installation. However, cost and land use are often the biggest factors for preferring rooftop solar panels. Let us draw our attention to the cost of solar panels that are ground-mounted and explain why it is more expensive.
Why is Ground-Mounted Solar More Expensive?
Not necessarily always ground-mounted solar panels are more expensive. If your roof is not in good condition, if it’s not facing the right direction, if it is not sloped or lacks free spaces, rooftop solar panels can be more expensive. However, in most cases, ground-mounted solar panels cost more than rooftop solar panels. The reasons are described below-
- Installation and Labor Cost: Ground-mounted solar panels need some additional pieces of equipment- rack-like structures and cement foundations which increases the installation cost. In addition to that, as there is a mounting process involved, there are additional labour costs. Also, for ground-mounted solar panels, you might need to dig trenches for wiring- which may increase installation costs.
- Maintenance Cost: As we described before, ground-level solar panels require more protection such as fencing. Also, you might need to employ a security guard to protect the solar panels. Apart from that, panels on the ground might be exposed to dirt and debris more than rooftop solar panels. Management costs may increase if you mount your panels on the ground.
- Land Usage: Frankly, we rarely use our roofs for economic purposes. In contrast, our lands are valuable economic commodities. We may use spare lands for agriculture, forestry, fishery or industrialized productions. Often we have to make a careful trade-off installing ground-level solar panels, while the ground could be used for other profitable purposes. Therefore, we must carefully consider the opportunity cost before making the decision.
Advantages of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?
Most people mistake ground-mounted solar panels as an unprofitable and costly affair. That’s not true at all. Often, ground-mounted solar panels are more cost-effective than rooftop solar panels. Let me explain why-
- Rooftop solar has certain limitations, for example- the way your roof is facing, the strength of your roof, the materials your roof is built with. Ground-mounted solar, in contrast, can be installed t0 face any direction and almost any location regarding the exposure of sunlight. They also can be installed at multiple angles.
- The rooftop solar largely depends on the sustainability of the roof. Ground-mounted solar panels are free from this limitation.
- If you have a big empty space on the ground which you are not planning to use, you may use it for electricity generation. You can adjust a lot of arrays to create a powerful and efficient solar system, and generate more electricity than your rooftop solar panels.
- Although maintenance of ground-mounted solar panels is often more costly, it is also easier than rooftop solar panels. The easy access to ground-mounted solar panels can make maintenance easier and the panels sustainable.
- Often ground-mounted solar panels are installed in a form of a shading system- for example- carports. It serves multiple purposes.
Ground-mounted solar panels can be profitable if you have ground advantages and empty spaces to spare. It is highly advisable when your roof is not in good condition or not made with the right materials- in essence, not suitable for solar panel installation. In these cases, don’t hesitate to ground-mount your solar panels. Installing rooftop solar panels when the situation is not suitable may cost you more than the apparent installation cost of the ground-mounted panels.