When homeowners think of installing a solar energy system on their home, rooftop solar is probably the first thing to come to mind. What you may not realize: installing ground mounted solar panels is both easy and cost-effective, and is actually the smartest option for many homes. We'll walk you through the top three things you need to know about ground-mounted solar.
While rooftop solar arrays are the most common choice for homeowners, there are many reasons to consider a ground mounted solar energy system.
Generally, ground-mounted solar costs the same as rooftop solar on a per-watt basis. If your home isn’t ideal for rooftop solar, installing a ground-mounted system can actually save you money in the long term.
Rooftop solar arrays are restricted by the characteristics of the roof on which they are installed. If your roof isn’t at the right angle, doesn’t face south, or has obstructions like chimneys or skylights, your solar array will be less productive. Ground-mounted solar energy systems, on the other hand, can be located wherever the conditions are best.
In addition, if your home uses a lot of electricity, your roof might not be big enough for a solar array that meets your energy needs. In contrast, ground-mounted solar systems can be sized to match your electricity consumption without the space restrictions of a rooftop system.
There are two basic types of ground-mounted solar energy systems:
Standard ground mounts use metal framing driven into the ground to hold your solar panels up at a fixed angle. Some standard ground-mounted systems can be manually adjusted a few times a year to account for seasonal shifts of the sun.
Pole mounts support multiple solar panels on a single pole, and elevate panels higher off the ground than a standard ground mount. Pole mounts often incorporate tracking systems, which automatically tilt the solar panels to capture the optimal amount of sunshine.
Tracking systems can increase the production of your solar panels by 25 percent or more. If you decide to add a tracking system to your ground-mounted solar array, you have the option of either a single-axis or a dual-axis system. Single-axis tracking systems move your solar panels over the course of the day to follow the sun as it moves through the sky. Dual-axis tracking systems can also adjust based on seasonal variations in the sun’s position.
Even if you are a good candidate for a rooftop solar array, there are many benefits to choosing a ground-mounted solar energy system.
First, ground-mounted solar energy systems are very easy to site, because they can be placed on open land. They don’t require drilling into your roof, and the bracings used in standard ground mount systems are lightweight and easy to remove. (If you opt for a pole mount, they will usually be installed more securely.)
Second, a ground-mounted solar array can be more productive per panel than a rooftop solar array. The panels are set at the perfect angle to optimize energy production, which means you can generate more electricity than a comparably sized rooftop system and save money in the long run.
Finally, ground-mounted solar is very easy to access for cleaning and maintenance. If you live in an area that sees a lot of snow in the winter, being able to easily sweep the snow off of your panels is a major convenience.
Most solar installers offer a ground mount option, and the cost of standard ground mounted solar is comparable with a rooftop solar energy system installation. If you decide to include a tracking system in your installation, you will pay an additional up-front cost, but the resulting increase in electricity production makes tracking systems cost-effective for many homeowners.
The best way to determine whether ground-mounted solar makes sense for you is to compare all of your solar options. Within the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can get quotes at no cost from vetted solar installers and – if you choose – specify that you are considering ground-mounted solar options. Get started today and turn your house into a solar home.
Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.
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