Renusol’s top tips on ground mounting
For smaller solar projects, the most common solar panel installation is on the rooftop, while ground-mounted panels are usually seen in PV farms or large, industrial-scale solar plants.
However, there are many perks to considering a ground-mounted installation for your home or commercial property if space allows. These types of installations can be just as cost-effective and efficient as rooftop panels despite their earth-bound location. Ground-mounted panels are also suitable for both grid-tied and off-grid customers.
Why should you choose ground-mounted panels?
Avoids rooftop damage
If you have seen SegenSolar’s recent blog about installer mistakes, you will know that a regular concern of homeowners is water ingress from inadequately sealing panel fixings on the roof. If the panels are installed on the ground, this alleviates any worries of damage to the roof materials, which could cause leakage.
While some rooftops may not be able to support loads of the panels, mounting straight on land means weight does not pose the same problem.
More flexibility for maximum output
It can be a challenge to adjust rooftop panels to the correct angle, particularly when they are installed on a pitched roof. There is only a certain level of adjustability and the panels may not be pitched at their optimum for maximum energy generation. On the ground, panels can be adjusted to the perfect angle to maximise efficiency, meaning it becomes possible to generate more power than a rooftop system of equal size. What’s more, ground-mounted panels can be situated so they are as unaffected by shading as possible.
For residential locations which require a substantial amount of electricity but do not have the roof space to match, opting for solar panels on the ground is an excellent alternative. Ground mounting presents the opportunity to construct a bigger, more optimised system. The panels can be placed on all kinds of terrain without the need for drilling, and the ground-mounting systems are both lightweight and easy to move around if necessary.
In comparison to rooftop panels, ground mounting allows more ventilation and, therefore, more cooling and higher efficiencies. Adequate ventilation is crucial for hot climates like that of Southern Africa as overheating can significantly hinder the performance of solar modules.
Easy to access
Panels on the ground are much easier to access and clean than roof-mounted modules. Any dirt or obstructions such as fallen leaves on any individual panel (specifically non-optimised panels) will lower the performance of the entire system, so it is vital to keep modules clean and free of muck. It is also far safer to access panels for maintenance when they are not mounted to a high rooftop.
Are there any drawbacks?
There are several things to consider that may negatively impact your decision to choose ground-mounted panels. For example, ground mounts take up land space which could be put to other use. Roofs are usually chosen for solar panels as they are dead space — especially for commercial locations such as warehouse rooftops. However, the panels can be raised to create shade for cars or the space below can be used for livestock grazing.
The main drawback is that ground-mounted systems generally come with a higher upfront cost. These systems require a higher degree of specialisation and often require more labour and materials. However, as these systems can generate more electricity than a standard rooftop system, they can prove more cost-effective in the long run.
Additionally, it can be a challenge to find ample land that has no shading from surrounding buildings or trees to fit the system. Rooftop panels also offer a degree of protection to the surface of the roof: in hot climates, they reflect a lot of the heat from the sun and help to keep homes cool.
What types of ground mounting are available?
This is the most common type of ground mounting. The panels are mounted at a fixed angle onto a metal framing in the ground. While the panels can be adjusted manually throughout the year to account for the variations in the sun’s position across seasons, this type of mounting offers little adjustability once the modules are in place.
Panels can also be installed on poles. These poles support multiple panels each and allow for higher elevation than a standard mount. Pole mounts facilitate more movement as they incorporate a tracking system (a built-in swivel feature) where the modules tilt automatically to capture the optimal amount of sunshine throughout the day.
While it can be beneficial to install a system that allows for adjustment and flexibility, it can sometimes be cheaper and equally useful to add more panels.
What should you know before ground mounting?
Anyone installing solar panels should invest in a site survey before installation, regardless of where the panels are being fitted. If opting for ground-mounted, it is crucial to consider soil type. Any soil without large rocks or is not considered to be ‘hard-pan’ is best; however, there are options for less agreeable soils such as Renusol’s ConSole+ system.
Choose Renusol ConSole+
The Renusol ConSole+ system offers a brilliant alternative method of ground mounting. Comprised of robust, UV-stable polyethylene boxes containing either concrete flags or stone chippings to prevent movement, the solar panels are attached to form a lid.
The system’s low height creates visual appeal and is easily moveable if the site is required for another use. One of the system’s most desirable features is its ability for installation on less compromising ground such as rocky soil.
Explore Renusol’s ConSole+ range now, available exclusively in South Africa through SegenSolar.