A Comprehensive Guide to Ground Mount Solar Panel Arrays

Cubix Mark
ground mount solar panels in front of a mountain

If you want to use the sun’s energy for your home or business but don’t have adequate space on your roof, you might consider a ground-mounted solar panel array. Ground-mounted systems have some benefits over rooftop installations, such as more design options, better performance, and easier maintenance. But before you get started with a ground-mounted solar array, it’s important to learn the difference between a ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar system.

What are Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?

Ground-mounted solar panel arrays refer to photovoltaic systems that are installed directly on the ground rather than on rooftops. These systems consist of multiple solar panels mounted on a rack or frame, and are strategically positioned to capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. Compared to rooftop solar panel systems, ground-mounted systems offer greater flexibility in terms of size, orientation, and tilt angle, making them an attractive option for both residential and commercial applications.

Benefits of Ground Mount Solar Panel Arrays

Ground-mounted solar panel arrays offer several advantages that make them an appealing choice over roof mounted solar systems:

  1. Increased Efficiency: Ground-mounted systems can be optimized for the best sun exposure, maximizing energy generation and overall system efficiency.
  2. Flexibility in Design: Unlike rooftop solar power systems, ground-mounted systems allow for flexible design options, including the ability to easily scale up the system’s size as energy needs grow.
  3. Optimal Orientation: Ground-mounted panels can be strategically positioned to face the sun’s path for maximum sunlight absorption throughout the day.
  4. Simplified Maintenance: Ground-mounted arrays are easier to access for cleaning, inspection, and maintenance compared to a rooftop system.
  5. Ideal for Shaded Areas: If your property has shaded areas or obstructions that limit rooftop solar options, ground-mounted systems can be installed in sunnier spots, optimizing energy production.

Now that we understand the benefits of ground-mounted solar panel arrays, let’s dive into the key factors to consider before installing one.

Site Selection

Choosing the right site for your ground-mounted solar panel array is crucial for maximizing its performance and longevity. Here are several factors to consider when selecting a site for your ground-mounted solar panel array:

Factors to Consider

  1. Solar access: The most important factor to consider is the amount of sunlight the site receives. You will need to locate a spot that gets adequate solar access throughout the year, with minimal shading from trees, buildings or other obstructions. Generally, the ideal orientation for solar panels is facing south in the northern hemisphere, and north in the southern hemisphere.
  2. Ground conditions: The array needs a stable foundation that is able to support the panels and racking system, so ground conditions are important. The soil should be firm and level, with little or no risk of erosion or waterlogging. If the terrain is sloped, the area should be graded to ensure the panels are installed on a level surface.
  3. Distance from the home: Ground-mounted solar arrays should be ideally located within 90 feet of the home or facility where the energy will be used. This reduces the amount of wiring required, thereby minimizing energy losses and installation costs.
  4. Wind and weather conditions: Your site should have a low risk of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes or extreme weather conditions. Additionally, you should consider the wind load capacity of the array’s racking system, which should be carefully designed to withstand strong winds or other severe weather events.
  5. Grid connection: The location of the array should be within reasonable distance to the electrical grid for interconnection, which helps to ensure that excess power is properly redirected to the grid.
  6. Permitting requirements: Different jurisdictions have different permitting requirements, so check your local requirements for the installation of ground-mounted solar systems.

By taking these factors into consideration, you can help ensure that your ground-mounted solar panel array will maximize its performance and longevity.  Here are the key factors to evaluate when selecting a site:

Design Considerations

Designing your ground-mounted solar panel array involves several important considerations. Paying attention to these factors will ensure optimal performance and efficiency:

Sizing the Solar Panel Array

Determining the appropriate size for your solar panel array depends on your energy consumption needs, available space, and budget. It’s recommended to conduct an energy audit to understand your average electricity consumption and identify the right system capacity to meet your requirements.

Selecting the Mounting System

Choosing the right mounting system is crucial for the stability and longevity of your ground-mounted solar panel array. The two most common options are pole mounts and standard ground mounts. Pole mounts are ideal for sites with limited available space, while standard ground mounts offer greater flexibility in terms of panel orientation and tilt angle.

Fixed-Tilt vs. Tracking Systems

One of the things you need to decide is whether you want a fixed-tilt or tracking system for your ground-mounted solar panel array. A fixed-tilt system means that the panels are set at a certain angle and do not move, while a tracking system means that the panels can change their orientation to follow the sun’s movement across the sky during the day. A tracking system can help you generate more energy from the sun, but it also costs more money and needs more maintenance than a fixed-tilt system. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each option and see what works best for your situation.

Ground Mount Solar Installation Process

Installing a ground-mounted solar panel array involves several steps to ensure a secure and efficient system. Here’s an overview of the installation process:

1. Preparing the Site for Installation

Before the install, the site needs to be prepared appropriately. This includes clearing the area of any debris, leveling the ground, and removing any vegetation that may obstruct sunlight.

2. Installing the Foundation and Support Structures

The next step is installing the solar panel array’s foundation and support structures. The type of foundation depends on various factors, such as soil conditions and local regulations. Common foundation types include concrete footings, ground screws, and ballasted systems.

3. Mounting and Wiring the Solar Panels

Once the foundation is in place, the solar panels can be mounted on the rack or frame. Proper wiring and grounding of the panels are essential for safety and optimal performance. We recommend working with a professional solar installer or electrician to ensure compliance with local electrical codes.

Maintenance for a Ground-Mounted Solar System

Regular maintenance and monitoring are essential to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your ground-mounted solar panel array. Here are some key considerations:

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Periodically clean the solar panels to remove dust, dirt, and debris, as these can reduce energy production. Inspect the panels for any signs of damage or wear, and promptly address any issues.

Monitoring System Performance

Keep track of your system’s performance by monitoring energy production and comparing it to expected outputs. This helps identify any potential issues and ensures your system is operating optimally.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Familiarize yourself with common issues that can affect ground-mounted solar panel arrays, such as shading from nearby structures, wiring problems, or module failures. Understanding these issues will help you troubleshoot and resolve them quickly.

Cost Analysis

Understanding the costs associated with ground-mounted solar panel arrays is crucial for budgeting and financial planning. Consider the following factors:

Comparing Costs

Compare the costs of ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels, taking into account installation, equipment, and maintenance expenses. Ground-mounted systems often require additional materials and labor for foundation installation. 

Factors Affecting Cost

Several factors can impact the overall cost of installing a ground-mounted solar panel array. These include system size, mounting system type, site preparation requirements such as ground leveling, distance to the main power panel, and labor costs in your area. You can expect to pay an additional 10 to 50 cents per watt of installed solar if you opt for a ground-mount system.

Permitting and Regulations

Before installing a ground-mounted solar panel array, we will need to work with your local power company and other local regulators to make sure all state and local requirements are met.

Local Regulations and Permits

Each state, utility provider, and local municipality had different regulations, codes, and permits required for ground-mounted solar panel installations. This may include building permits, electrical permits, and interconnection agreements with the utility company.

Working with Utility Companies and Local Authorities

We work with your utility company to ensure compliance with interconnection and net metering regulations. Additionally, we inform local authorities and utility companies of your project to ensure it aligns with their guidelines and requirements.

Environmental Considerations

Ground-mounted solar panel arrays offer significant long-term environmental benefits, but it’s important to consider potential environmental impacts your solar array may have on local wildlife habitats, and mitigate them where possible:

Assessing Environmental Impact

Evaluate the potential environmental impact of your solar installation, such as land disturbance during construction or the impact on local wildlife habitats. Engage with environmental experts or organizations to assess and minimize these impacts.

Mitigating Potential Issues

Implement measures to minimize environmental impact, such as using native plants for landscaping, incorporating pollinator-friendly habitats, and considering wildlife-friendly fencing options.

Conclusion

Installing a ground-mounted solar panel array can provide numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, flexibility in design, and simplified maintenance. By carefully considering the factors outlined in this article, you can make informed decisions and ensure a successful installation. Remember to evaluate site selection, design considerations, installation processes, maintenance, costs, regulations, and environmental considerations. Taking these steps will help you transition to clean and renewable solar energy while maximizing the benefits for your property and the environment.

FAQs

Q1. How much do ground-mounted solar panel arrays cost?

The cost of a ground-mounted solar panel array depends on various factors, including system size, mounting system choice, site preparation requirements, and labor costs. On average, ground-mounted systems may have slightly higher installation costs compared to rooftop installations due to additional materials and labor for foundation installation. You can expect to pay and additional 10 to 50 cents per watt versus a typical roof mounted solar system.

Q2. Can I install a ground-mount solar panel array on a sloped site?

Yes, ground-mounted solar panel arrays can be installed on sloped sites. However, additional engineering and site preparation may be required to ensure proper stability and orientation of the panels. Consult with one of our solar engineers to assess the feasibility of installation on a sloped site.

Q3. Are ground-mounted solar panel arrays more efficient than rooftop installations?

Ground-mounted solar panel arrays offer the advantage of flexibility in design, allowing for optimal orientation and tilt angle. This can result in increased energy generation and overall system efficiency compared to rooftop installations, which may be limited by roof angles and shading.

Q4. Do ground-mounted solar panel arrays require permits?

Yes, ground-mounted solar panel arrays typically require permits. The specific permits and regulations vary depending on your location. Research and comply with local building codes, zoning regulations, and electrical permits. Consult with your local authorities and utility company to ensure compliance.

Q5. How long does it take to install a ground-mounted solar panel array?

The installation timeline for a ground-mounted solar panel array can vary depending on various factors, such as system size, site preparation requirements, and weather conditions. On average, the installation process can take several days to a few weeks, including site preparation, foundation installation, and mounting. 

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