When homeowners have adequate roof space with good sunlight, the roof is usually the preferred location for a solar array, using what is otherwise wasted space. However, when a homeowner has enough property, there are sometimes compelling reasons to consider mounting the solar energy system on the ground instead of the roof. After discussing the advantages and disadvantages, about 12 percent of our customers request ground-mounted solar energy projects.
The most common reason homeowners choose ground-mounted solar is to avoid shading. For example, if a large property is wooded and the home’s roof is shaded, a spot of land with unobstructed sunlight can often be found for the solar array.
Ground-mounted systems tend to be larger, simply because we can often fit more on the ground than on the roof. A system doesn’t have to be entirely one or the other, however. At SunUp we have designed a number of arrays that were partly roof-mounted and partly ground-mounted.
An electric cable must be run from a ground-mounted solar array to the home that will be using the electricity. We prefer to keep the ground-mounted array within a few hundred feet of the home to minimize the amount of cabling that must be done. Cables are usually laid in trenches in the ground.
Ground-mounted systems can be anchored in the ground on concrete footings, but in rocky areas we prefer ballasted systems. After years of experience creating arrays in every sort of terrain, we have this down to quite a science.
Generally, ground-mounted solar does cost about 22 percent more than a comparably sized roof-mounted installation. The price difference is due mainly to the higher cost of labor and the best-quality structural racking. When ground mounting is the best solution for a solar array, the extra cost doesn’t make that much difference over the long run. After all, a solar energy system lasts for at least 25 years and yields a return from day one. Most homeowners want to get as much solar profit as reasonably possible, even if it means a somewhat higher investment.
This is SunUp Solar’s standard disclaimer about the need for a careful evaluation of each unique property to determine if and how to best adapt solar to that property. Like any other kind of property improvement, solar requires an inspection by a professional to take site conditions into account. In the case of solar, these include roof size, pitch and orientation, shading issues, the status of the property’s electrical system and the property’s electrical billing history. This is routine for us and it is absolutely necessary to provide an accurate proposal for property owners. We use satellite photos, such as Google Earth, to get a general idea of your property’s situation. Unlike some companies, we will not provide a firm quote until one of our Energy Consultants has visited the property, done the proper analysis, and discussed the project thoroughly with the property owners. We stand behind our work and must have customers that are pleased with every aspect of their solar project.