The transition to renewable energy sources, especially solar power, is on the rise. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar power generation in the U.S. increased by nearly 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, and the trend continues. But what if your roof is not suitable for residential solar panels due to shading or you simply prefer not to install panels on your roof? This is where ground-mounted solar systems come into play.
Importance of Proper Sun Exposure
For effective power production, solar panels require unobstructed access to the sun’s rays. This is why the ideal location for solar panels is a south-facing roof with little to no shade. But, if your roof is shaded or has an unconventional layout, this ideal situation might not be achievable. Here is where the question arises, “What do I do if my roof is too shaded for solar panels?”
Ground-Mounted Solar: A Viable Alternative
In situations where roof installation is not viable or preferred, ground-mounted solar systems offer a solid alternative. They are essentially solar panel systems that are installed on the ground rather than on a rooftop. Here are some reasons why they can be a perfect choice:
- Optimal Positioning: One significant advantage of ground-mounted systems is that they can be positioned perfectly south-facing in a shade-free area to maximize production.
- Ease of Maintenance: Ground-mounted systems are generally easier to clean and maintain as they are more accessible than roof-mounted panels.
- Customizable Tilt and Orientation: Ground-mounted systems allow for the adjustment of tilt and orientation to maximize sunlight exposure, thereby increasing efficiency.
- Space Efficient: For property owners with ample land, ground-mounted systems can be a great way to utilize unused space.
Factors Influencing Ground-Mounted Solar Installation
While ground-mounted solar can be a great option, there are a few additional factors to consider:
- Additional Costs: Ground-mounted systems typically involve extra expenses, such as trenching and the structure or framing itself.
- Space: You will need enough unshaded land to install a ground-mounted solar array.
- Regulations: Local zoning rules, HOA regulations, or other restrictions might limit the installation of ground-mounted solar systems.
Distance Limitations for Ground-Mounted Systems
Another crucial factor to consider is the distance limitation when installing a ground-mounted system. Generally, it can be challenging to install the ground mount more than 300 feet or so from the home (electrical meter) itself due to potential voltage drop issues and increased costs for trenching and cabling.
Approval and Design Considerations for Ground-Mounted Systems
The typical installation time frame for a ground-mounted system is slightly longer than a rooftop installation, given the necessary approvals and design considerations. These may include:
- Obtaining Permits: Ensure that the proper permits are obtained from local authorities before installation.
- Land Surveys: Conducting a land survey to identify the optimal location for the solar array.
- Geotechnical Reports: These evaluate the soil composition and determine if it’s suitable for a ground-mounted system.
- Zoning and HOA Regulations: Checking local zoning rules, HOA regulations, or other restrictions that might limit the installation of ground-mounted solar systems.
- Structural Design: Choosing the correct racking and mounting system to ensure the stability and longevity of the solar array.
To Ground Mount Or Not?
Ground-mounted solar systems provide a perfect solution for homeowners who have a shaded roof or prefer not to install solar panels on their roof. Despite the additional cost and installation time, these systems offer excellent efficiency due to their optimal positioning and exposure to sunlight. With solar energy continuing to grow as a significant renewable energy source, ground-mounted solar systems are a worthwhile consideration for many homeowners.