If you ever wondered how those big solar panel arrays are on the ground, you’re in the right place.
If you have a domestic property, placing solar panels on the ground at home probably doesn’t seem as efficient as putting them on your roof where they can get direct sunlight.
But there are actually a lot of advantages to ground-mounted solar panel systems!
First, let’s take a look at what they are:
What are Ground-Mounted Solar Panel Systems?
They are usually used for utility-scale solar farms that generate electricity for the power grid, but they can also be used for commercial or industrial applications, or even for residential use.
Related: Solar Panels in your Garden
There are 4 types of ground-mounted systems:
Types of Ground-Mounted Solar Panel
- Standard ground-mounted solar system
- Pole-mounted solar system
- Tracking mounted solar systems
Standard ground-mounted solar system
Typically a ground-mounted solar system will use metal framing to support the solar panels and hold them in a fixed position, and they will be installed on a concrete base.
The main advantage of this type of system is that it is very easy to install, and it is also one of the most cost-effective options.
You also have the ability to manually adjust the angle of the panels to maximize the amount of sunlight that they are exposed to.
Pole-mounted solar system
A pole-mounted solar system is very similar to a standard ground-mounted system, but the main difference is that the panels are supported by a metal pole instead of a frame.
On the frame, you can mount multiple amounts of solar arrays and configurations from very low to the ground or higher up to track the sun.
The main advantage of this type of system is that it takes up less space than a standard ground-mounted system, and it is also less obtrusive.
It is also possible to angle the panels to maximize the amount of sunlight that they are exposed to.
Tracking mounted solar systems
A tracking system is a type of solar panel that automatically tracks the movement of the sun throughout the day.
This means that the panels are always exposed to direct sunlight, which increases their efficiency.
Tracking systems are usually more expensive than other types of solar panels, but they are becoming increasingly popular as they offer a higher return on investment.
There are two types of tracking systems. Single-axis tracking and dual-axis tracking.
The main difference between the two axis systems is that a single-axis solar tracking system uses a tilted PV panel mount and one electric motor to move the panel along an approximate trajectory compared with the Sun’s position.
The rotation axis can be horizontal, vertical, or slanted.
The dual-axis tracking device may be divided into two categories depending on which axis is used: polar-azimuth tracking and spinning-elevation tracking.
Spinning elevation tracking, otherwise known as polar-azimuth monitoring, is the more commonly used of the two.
Solar canopy system
A solar canopy is a structure that is used to provide shade and protection from the elements, while also supporting a solar panel.
Solar canopies are usually made from metal or glass, and they can be either freestanding or attached to a building.
They are normally elevated and are now commonly used for vehicle charging stations, carports, as well as for domestic solar PV systems.
Solar canopies are a great way to protect your solar panels from the elements, and they also offer the added benefit of shading your home or business from the sun.
This can help to keep your building cooler in the summer months, and it can also reduce your energy consumption.
Getting Ground-Mounted Solar Panels Installed
Installers may put a ground-mounted solar array as an alternative to installing a rooftop system. One of the wonderful things about this setup is that the cost is comparable to that of a rooftop solar array.
If you want your system to have tracking capabilities, you’ll have to pay a greater upfront investment, but the increased electricity production will make tracking systems more than pay for themselves over the long run.
Ensure you get quotes from at least 3 different solar companies to get the best price and system for your needs.
When you’ve got quotes from a few solar companies, it’s important to ensure that you are comparing apples to apples.
Make sure that the systems they are quoting are the same size and have the same features.
You should also make sure that the companies have a good reputation and will be around to service your system for many years to come.
Do You Need Planning Permission For Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?
Installations of small ground-mounted solar photovoltaic systems are classified as permitted development if they meet certain conditions.
- The solar PV array must be no more than 4m high.
- The property line of the solar PV array must be more than 5m from your boundary.
- The area of the solar PV array must not exceed 9m sq (4-5 large solar panels).
- If you live within a conservation area or a world heritage site, the solar PV array must not face onto or be visible from the road.
What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?
Advantages of ground-mounted solar panels?
- No shading issues – One of the biggest advantages of ground-mounted solar panel systems is that there are no shading issues. Since the panels are not mounted on your roof, there’s no chance that trees or other objects will cast a shadow on them and reduce their effectiveness.
- Ideal in suburban or rural settings – Ground-mounted solar panel systems are also ideal if you live in a suburban or rural setting. If your home is surrounded by trees or other buildings, a ground-mounted system can be the perfect way to get the most out of the sun.
- Greater flexibility in panel orientation – Another advantage of ground-mounted solar panel systems is that they offer greater flexibility in panel orientation. With a rooftop system, the panels must be placed in a way that is compatible with the angle of your roof. However, with a ground-mounted system, the panels can be orientated to optimize sun exposure no matter the angle of your property.
- Greater energy productivity per panel – The most efficient PV panels have an efficiency of 22-23%. Modules with a lower efficiency rating may reach as low as 15-18%. If they are installed on a roof with an incorrect angle and orientation that is not conducive to maximum solar energy generation, their efficiency will go down even more. This implies that your home will require greater amounts of roof space to install an array that can generate the same amount of power as a ground-mounted system. In addition, ground-mounted solar panel systems are often easier and less costly to maintain than rooftop systems.
- Eliminates rooftop restrictions – Shading of solar panels is often a problem with rooftop systems. Even a small amount of shading can reduce the power output of a solar panel by up to 80%. Ground-mounted systems don’t have this problem since the panels can be placed in an area that is free from shading.
- Requires no roof drilling – Any type of work done on your roof will cost you a pretty penny. Drilling holes to mount solar panels will not only void your roof warranty, but it may also cause leaks. With a ground-mounted system, there is no need to drill holes in your roof, which means you can avoid these costly repairs.
- Fewer electrical hazards, safer grounding – The risk of lightning and other electrical hazards is reduced with ground-mounted systems since the solar panels are not mounted on your roof. In addition, grounding is often easier with these types of systems since the ground provides a natural way to disperse any excess electricity.
- More efficient cooling – A free-standing system has more airflow under and around the modules than a rooftop system with adjacent panels. Heat dissipation is easier in comparison to a rooftop system since adjacent panels are less likely to block the modules.
Disadvantages of ground-mounted solar panels?
There are not many disadvantages of ground-mounted solar panel systems, but there are a few things to keep in mind, including:
- Cost – The biggest disadvantage of ground-mounted solar panel systems is the cost. These types of systems often require specialized equipment and labor, which can add to the overall cost.
- Planning and construction – Another disadvantage of ground-mounted solar panel systems is that they require more planning and construction than rooftop systems. Since the panels are not mounted on your roof, you’ll need to factor in the location of the system, the type of foundation it will sit on, and the size of the system.
- Aesthetics – Some people feel that ground-mounted solar panel systems are not as aesthetically pleasing as rooftop systems. This is a matter of personal preference, but it is something to keep in mind if you are considering a ground-mounted system for your home.
- Need a secure structure – The most secure method is to construct an impermeable foundation made of concrete or steel reinforcement using a pipe. This is a separate stage in the installation procedure that might significantly lengthen the time it takes to install.
- Garden space is taken – When you have a roof-mounted solar system, you are not using usable space on your property. With a ground-mounted system, you are taking up space that could be used for gardens, patios, or other outdoor activities.
How To Install a Ground-Mounted System
Step 1: Select The Best Spot For Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
When you’re ready to install your ground-mounted solar panel system, the first step is to select the best spot for the panels.
The ideal location for your panels will be a sunny spot that is free from shading. Once you’ve selected the location, you’ll need to mark out the perimeter of the area where the panels will be placed.
Step 2: Excavate the hole for the foundation
After you’ve marked out the area, it’s time to excavate the hole for the foundation. The depth of the hole will depend on the type of foundation you are using.
If you are using a concrete slab foundation, you’ll need to excavate a hole that is at least 8 inches deep.
If you are using a steel-reinforced foundation, you’ll need to excavate a hole that is at least 4 feet deep.
Step 3: Install the foundation
After you’ve excavated the hole, it’s time to install the foundation. If you are using a concrete slab foundation, you’ll need to pour a concrete slab that is at least 8 inches thick.
If you are using a steel-reinforced foundation, you’ll need to install the steel reinforcement and pour a concrete slab that is at least 4 feet thick.
Step 4: Install the solar panels
After the foundation has been installed, it’s time to install the solar panels. The installation process will vary depending on the type of system you are using.
If you are using a photovoltaic system, you’ll need to install the solar panels, inverter, and other components according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you are using a solar thermal system, you’ll need to install the solar collectors and storage tanks according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 5: Connect the system to the grid
After the solar panels have been installed, you’ll need to connect the system to the grid. The process of connecting your system to the grid will vary depending on your location and utility company.
In most cases, you’ll need to apply for a permit from your local utility company before you can connect your system to the grid.
Once you’ve obtained a permit, you’ll need to hire an electrician to connect your system to the grid.
Ground-Mounted Solar Panel System Maintenance
Keep them clean
The main way of maintaining your solar panels is to keep them clean. Dust, dirt, and bird droppings can all reduce the amount of sunlight that your panels are able to absorb.
You can clean your panels yourself with a garden hose and a soft brush. If you have a large system, you might need to hire a professional to clean your panels for you.
Note: Use deionized water or distilled water to avoid leaving water spots.
Check the mounts and foundations
You’ll also need to check the mounts and foundations of your solar panels to make sure that they are secure.
If you have a ground-mounted system, you’ll need to check the foundation for cracks or other damage. You should also check the bolts that secure the solar panels to the mount.
If you have a roof-mounted system, you’ll need to check the roof for leaks or other damage. You should also check the bolts that secure the solar panels to the roof.
Inspect the wiring
You’ll also need to inspect the wiring of your solar panel system on a regular basis. Look for signs of wear or damage, and make sure that all of the connections are secure.
If you notice any damage, you should hire an electrician to repair or replace the damaged parts.
Monitor the output
You’ll also need to monitor the output of your solar panel system on a regular basis. You can do this by checking your utility bills or using a home energy monitoring system.
If you notice that the output of your system is declining, it could be a sign that your panels are dirty or that there is a problem with the system.
If you notice a significant drop in output, you should hire a professional to check the system and identify the problem.
Hire a professional
If you don’t feel comfortable maintaining your ground-mounted solar panel system yourself, you can always hire a professional to do it for you.
Hiring a professional to maintain your system will ensure that it stays in good working condition and lasts for many years.
How Much Do They Cost?
Ground-mount systems are typically 25% to 35% more expensive than rooftop installations.
When compared to fences on a headland or a building where we may part brace from posts or a permanent structure, however, they might be less expensive.
The tubs are the cheapest option, while the raised steel frames are the greatest. This is usually due to the height and pitch of the raised systems, which means less shade and a reduced likelihood of vegetation growth.
A raised system with panels, inverter, meter, and installation may cost between £14 and £15 or about £2.35 p/watt.
Can you buy solar panel ground-mounting kits?
Yes, you can buy solar panel ground-mounting kits. These kits typically include the mounts, brackets, and fasteners needed to install your solar panels.
Can you make your own solar panel ground-mount?
Yes, you can make your own solar panel ground-mount. However, it is important to note that making your own mount may void the warranty on your solar panels.
It is also important to make sure that your mount is strong enough to support the weight of your solar panels.
Can you use a tarp as a ground cover for solar panels?
No, you should not use a tarp as a ground cover for solar panels. Tarps can trap heat and moisture, which can damage your solar panels.
Are ground-mounted solar panels better?
Even though ground-mounted solar panels are safer to install, in the long run, rooftop solar panels are still better for a number of reasons.
Rooftop solar panels can be connected to the grid more easily than ground-mounted solar panels. This is because the electrical wiring for ground-mounted solar panels is typically buried underground, which makes it more difficult and expensive to connect to the grid.