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Ground Mount Solar System

By Benjamin Strusnik August 16, 2022

We’re familiar with solar panels mounted onto the roof of our homes but what happens when a few issues come up in the process? Things like angle, orientation, and spacing can be limited by the size and layout of our rooftops.

This is why we’re taking a look at an alternative that’ll solve our problems and fulfill our electrical needs, the ground-mounted solar system. 

What Is a Ground Mount System?

A ground-mounted solar system is just as the name implies; it’s a system that can be set up on the ground, unlike conventional solar panels commonly installed on your roof. 

A ground-mount solar system isn’t restricted by the angle of a roof, it can be mounted with an ideal level tilt and orientation. This allows the panels to soak up the maximum amount of sunlight.

solar panel ground mounting systems

Ground-mounted solar PV systems, in general, cost a little more per watt than rooftop solar because of extra labor costs and permits that you’d need for the installation to happen. 

Although, if a regular rooftop system isn’t possible then a ground-mounted system is a good alternative, and you can still make your money back. 

With rooftop installations, you’ve got to worry about whether your roof is at the right angle, facing the right direction, has a chimney that’s in the way, and all those kinds of things. 

By contrast, ground-mounted solar systems can be put practically anywhere as long as the conditions are ideal. For this kind of solar system, you’ll need an open piece of land that isn’t being shaded by trees, buildings, billboards, and the like. 

Ground-mounted solar systems can also allow you to use more solar panels if you tend to use a lot of electricity whereas rooftop solar systems are limited by the size of your roof’s area. 

Ground mount systems are also great as an emergency solar power generator system in the case of a power outage. 

How Does It Work?

Ground-mounted solar systems essentially use the same kind of home solar panel kits that you’d find on rooftop systems, the only difference is how they’re installed. 

solar ground mount systems

Installing a solar system on a rooftop uses a racking system that’s designed for a familiar structure, i.e. a house or commercial building. When using ground-mounted solar systems, however, the supports and rack system must be built, too. 

This is because the height of this support structure can vary in size, ranging from a few inches off the ground to a few feet tall, in some instances. 

Rooftop and ground-mount systems use the same electrical connections and protections, even micro-inverter solar systems

The primary difference here is that the ground-mounted system needs more wiring. It’s most likely that the ideal spot for this system, which avoids any shadows, is going to be farther away from your home. 

Much like a rooftop installation, ground-mounted systems use 60-cell solar panels for homes, and the bigger 72-cell panels are usually for solar farms. 

Under the same conditions, both rooftop and ground-mount solar systems have the same electrical output. However, a ground-mount system’s installation can be designed according to a particular orientation and tilt-angle that’ll guarantee maximum production. 

A ground-mounted solar power system can also have a tracking mechanism built into it and keeps the panels angled toward the sunshine throughout the day. By doing this, you’re able to increase electrical output and save more on the electric bill without installing more solar panels. 

Rooftop solar systems don’t have this option since tracking devices aren’t made for typical roof structures.

Set-Up

There are two kinds of structures that are used for ground-mount solar systems: a standard ground mount and a pole-mounted system. 

The standard ground mount uses anchor points while the top of the structure is a tilted frame made of steel. The solar panels are installed onto that frame.

solar ground mount system

A pole-mounted system involves a single mast attached to the ground, much like a wind turbine. At the top of the mast is a square or rectangular frame where the solar panel is installed onto.

If you’re planning on installing a backup generator for your solar system, you also need to take into account the extra wiring ad space you’ll need for the additional equipment.

Solar Trackers

So, we mentioned earlier that ground-mount systems can have trackers built into them, right? Well, these can be classified as either single-axis or dual-axis systems. This is usually determined by their movement.

Tracking the sun means that the solar panel must be able to rotate horizontally - east to west - and vertically - up and down. Single-axis systems can only perform one of these functions while a dual-axis system can do both. 

There are two types of single-axis systems: east-west trackers and north-west trackers. The east-west trackers have a bigger production boost than their counterparts. 

Dual-axis systems are more expensive than single-axis systems because of their complexity. While this might look like a setback, at first, a dual-axis system can be more cost-effective in the long run. They are more accurate and can achieve a higher efficiency rate thanks to it. 

Is a Ground Mounted Solar System Cheaper?

While they’re safer to install since there’s no need for a rooftop and have a simpler level of maintenance, the total project costs can be higher than a rooftop-mounted system. 

This is mostly due to things like permits, structures, and labor. 

Getting a ground-mount solar system generally requires a more complex permitting process, since they’re treated as separate constructions. Separate constructions involve a structural design and foundations. 

ground mounting system solar panels

This system always needs to have a structure built for the solar panels, like the standard and pole-mounted systems we mentioned earlier. Rooftop mounts incorporate the roof as the supporting structure. 

Since we need to have the support structure built for a ground-mounted system it can increase the labor needs for the installation. 

Now, we know it’s not what everyone would consider a bargain but ground mount systems are way more productive. Not to mention that if you install that tracker it’ll achieve an even higher output. The trick here is that, in the long run, they’ll be able to do more than the regular rooftop panels. 

Benefits & Drawbacks

You might be a good candidate for a rooftop installation but there are good enough reasons to go with a ground mount solar system. 

Benefits

In general, ground mount systems are much easier to place than rooftop systems. Any piece of open land away from shade and other obstacles is a good spot for ground-mount installations. There’s no need to drill into your roof, and the standard bracings are usually lightweight and easy to relocate. 

Compared to a rooftop solar system, a ground mount solar system is more productive per panel. These systems don’t require a roof, so they can be placed and tilted in the most optimal way possible. This generates more electricity and saves more money later on. 

As a final reason, ground-mounted systems are much easier to clean and maintain. This is a major advantage if you live in environments that have a lot of dust or snow. Being able to wipe the panels clean without the need to climb a ladder is safer, too. 

Drawbacks

Ground-mount solar systems might not be for everyone. A rooftop system only uses the space on your roof but a ground mount system needs an area of land which could’ve been used for something else. 

 solar panel ground mounting system

This can pose an issue for homeowners who might need a space for either gardening, farming or recreational purposes. 

Finally, ground mount systems are free-standing, which makes them vulnerable to damage from wildlife or human tampering.

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