A lot of the time when X vs. Y articles are written, there’s a clear winner; it can be easy to tell what the writer is biased towards. There are times when that’s okay – when one option is clearly better than the other. When it comes to ground or roof mounting your solar panels, that’s not the case; there’s distinct advantages to both, and which route you’ll want to take depends entirely on the needs of your project. To illustrate, let’s go over the advantages of both installation types.
Benefits of Ground Mounted Solar Panels
Ground mounted solar panels are best suited to larger solar projects. We do a lot of Saskatchewan solar installs for farms and industrial businesses. These are well suited to ground mount systems. Why?
There’s lots of ground to cover: Roofs are sizable enough for small scale operations, but when you’re trying to generate a lot of electricity, you need ground mounted panels. The reason is simple: you have more yard than you do roof. This is doubly useful if you plan on scaling your solar array up as time goes on; your roof would soon be covered with panels, but there’s enough space on the rest of your property to expand the project.
They’re more customizable: Solar panels do best when they are tilted to get optimal sunlight, something that can be readily calculated – it’s pretty complicated, though. In the northern hemisphere, you might want to tilt them south, but you’ll also want to avoid shade, and you might want them tilted west, depending on the pricing scheme of your utility. Your roof might not allow you to take all of these considerations into account, but the rest of your property is open, so the panels can be placed in the optimal position, with the optimal tilt. There are even self-tilting systems, called solar trackers, emerging, where the solar panels follow the sun – impossible with a rooftop system.
They’re easier to maintain: Having to go onto your roof to clear off an overabundance of snow, or to clean your solar panels, or to fix problems – it’s more time consuming, or more costly, depending on how you go about it. Ground mounted panels are easily accessible, so they’re easier to maintain.
They’re cooler: Solar panels operate best at lower temperatures. The easiest way to keep panels cool is by natural means – the wind. Roof mounted panels get cooled by wind blowing over them – their undersides are, however, stuck to your roof, and so don’t benefit from wind cooling. Both sides of a ground mounted panel are exposed to the wind, so they cool better, and run more efficiently on hot days.
Benefits of Roof Mounted Panels
If you were asked to visualize a solar array, roof mounted panels are probably what would spring to mind. There’s a good reason for that – they’re the more popular form of residential solar array. Why?
They’re less expensive: Want to get a good, fast return on your solar panel investment? Rooftop panels are probably the way to go. Ground mounted panels require more permits, more materials, and more work from the installers, because they need to create a structure on which the panels can be installed. With rooftop panels, we have pre-existing infrastructure, so there’s a lot less work involved. Some homes can fully offset their power bills using a rooftop installation alone – for these folks, rooftop is probably the way to go.
They’re pretty: There’s a lot of folks who don’t love the idea of having solar panels that block the view of their garden or mess up their perfectly landscaped yard. Rooftop panels are inconspicuous at worst, and add to your home’s aesthetic at best – people are really into the green revolution, and solar panels are a sure sign that you’re an environmentally conscientious, forward thinking individual.
They don’t take up space: You might want to use your yard to run and play and have people over for a barbecue/pool extravaganza! Ground mounted panels will rain on this parade unless you’ve got a pretty sizable yard.
As you can see, whether you want a roof or ground installation will depend on a number of different factors; great solar installers will take these factors into account and provide you with the best solution.