Guide to Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
October 28, 2021
Whether you lack a south-facing roof, want to avoid roof penetration, or would prefer your panels to remain hidden for aesthetic reasons, keep reading to learn more about ground-mounted solar panel systems.
What Are the Different Types of Ground Mounts for Solar Panels?
Ground-mounted systems have a range of foundation options to hold a rack and solar panel system in place.
Standard Ground-Mounted Solar Panel System
Standard ground mounts have a couple foundation options. They use a tilted racking system, typically made of steel, that upholds the solar panel system.
A concrete pier foundation is the most popular option. To set it up, you dig numerous holes that are several feet deep and then place poles into them. Then you pour concrete into the holes to keep them in place so that they can support a racking system.
A ballasted system is essentially a standard ground mount except the concrete is above the ground, not poured into it. Heavy concrete footings hold a racking system and three to four solar panels in place so that strong wind and adverse weather don’t affect them. Ballast systems work for either ground or roof installations, and are useful for those who don’t want to penetrate their roof or property grounds.
Pole-Mounted Solar Panel System
A driven pier is essentially a large pole that is pile-driven into the ground using special machinery. Once in place, the top of the pole mast upholds a rectangular frame that supports the solar panel system.
Helical piles are very similar to driven piers in that they also require special machinery to install into the ground. What sets them apart is their appearance, which is similar to a giant screw. You essentially screw helical piles deep into the ground. This enables them to hold up a frame system for solar panels.
How Do Ground-Mounted Tracking Systems Work?
We all know that the more sunlight your solar panels receive, the more energy they’ll generate. But it can be difficult to take full advantage of solar panels if they aren’t adjustable.
This is when tracking systems come into play. Tracking systems can follow the sun’s ever-changing position in the sky and adjust your solar panel system’s placement. That way, they can absorb the most solar energy possible.
Tracking systems will help you maximize sunlight absorption throughout the day and seasons.
Solar trackers can rotate horizontally, vertically, or both. Here’s how to classify them:
- Single-axis: Single-axis trackers can either rotate horizontally from east to west, or vertically up and down. These trackers can only perform one of these actions, and east-west trackers make up the majority of the pick.
- Dual-axis: Dual-axis trackers are more complex than single-axis trackers and thus cost more. They can perform both east to west rotation as well as up and down. This helps you better absorb solar energy and save more money in the long run.
Are Ground-Mounted Systems Cheaper?
Ground-mounted solar panels have both economical downsides and advantages.
Ground-mounted solar panel systems are more expensive to install since you have to build a support structure for the panels. Roofs and walls serve as support structures in other scenarios. However, since poles and racking systems are both typically necessary for a ground-mounted foundation, there’s an increase in material costs.
Labor costs are also more than roof or wall-mounted solar panels systems since heavy machinery such as pile drivers are necessary for the installation. The average person doesn’t own or know how to operate a pile driver or move around cement blocks. Therefore, you’ll likely have to hire construction personnel to complete the project.
Ground installations involve structural design and foundation plans, so they’re considered independent construction projects. This means that gaining a permit is often more complex than with wall or roof panel systems.
On the other hand, ground-mounted solar panel systems are adjustable with tracking systems. Therefore, power outputs tend to be higher than other installation types. You’ll most likely see a return on your investment in a shorter amount of time.
Are Ground-Mounted Solar Panel Systems Safer?
Ground-mounted solar panel systems are generally much safer than wall or roof-mounted systems. They don’t require roof access for installation or performing routine maintenance, which is often risky, especially during adverse weather conditions.
Regular cleaning is easier to perform as well, so the risk of accidents is much lower than with rooftop installations.
[Related: Guide to Solar Panels]
Contact Freedom Solar for Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
Featured image via Unsplash