Ground Mounted Solar Panels

Joe Brennan
Nov 13, 2023

Having a tough time deciding if ground-mounted solar panels are the right choice for your home in Ireland? We totally understand that feeling, and from our extensive research, we've discovered that these installations can tremendously boost renewable energy production!

Our article aims to navigate you through the importance of ground-mounted solar panel systems, highlighting the function of round-mounted solar panels, assembling ground-based solar energy setups, and so on.

Let's get started exploring ground-mounted solar panels!

Key Takeaways for Ground Mounted Solar Panels

Let's have a look at key takeaways for a clear understanding of what we're going to cover in this blog:

  • Ground-mounted solar panels are, in simple terms, solar panels that are installed directly into the ground rather than on an elevated surface such as a roof.
  • These panels are similar to the ones seen on solar energy farms and function in a manner akin to rooftop solar panels.
  • One significant advantage of ground-mounted panels is their efficiency, which generally surpasses that of rooftop solar systems. This makes them a viable option, particularly if your roof is not suitable for solar panel installation. They can be placed anywhere on your property.
  • However, it's important to note that these panels are often a costlier choice, primarily due to the higher labour costs involved in their installation.

How Ground Mounted Solar Panels Function?

Ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems use the same kind of solar panels as those installed on roofs, but they are set up differently.

For rooftop solar installations, the supporting framework is adapted to an existing structure. In contrast, ground-mounted solar panels require a purpose-built support structure. This can vary in height from just a few inches above the ground to several feet.

The electrical connections and protective measures are the same in both rooftop and ground-based PV systems. A key difference is that ground-mounted systems often require more wiring because they need to be positioned away from any shadows your home might cast.

In domestic settings, 60-cell solar panels are typically used, similar to rooftop installations. Larger 72-cell panels are more common in solar farms.

When exposed to the same sunlight and with equal total wattage, both roof and ground-mounted solar panels produce the same amount of electricity. However, ground-mounted panels can be optimally oriented and tilted to maximise sunlight exposure, thus enhancing their productivity.

The tilt and orientation of rooftop solar panels are limited by the slope of your roof. In contrast, ground-mounted systems can boost energy production with a tracking mechanism that keeps the panels angled towards the sun throughout the day.

In short, this method allows you to increase your electricity generation and save more on your electric bill without needing additional panels. Solar tracking is generally not feasible for rooftop setups, as these tracking devices are unsuitable for standard roof structures.

Assembling Ground-Based Solar Energy Setup

There are two primary designs for setting up solar panels on the ground at home:

The first is a standard ground mount, which is secured to the ground in several places, much like a canopy or pergola. At the top of this structure is a slanted frame, usually made of steel, where the solar panels are placed.

The second type is a pole-mounted system, which uses a single tall post, akin to a small wind turbine or a single-pole sign. The solar panels are fixed onto a square or rectangular frame at the top of this post.

Typical residential solar panels are about 65 by 39 inches (17.6 square feet). When the wind blows against them, it can apply considerable force. Without a strong support structure, there's a risk of the panels being blown away in strong winds.

For rooftop solar installations, a sturdy structure (your roof) is already in place. However, for ground installations, you need to construct a separate base. This is usually done with a reinforced concrete foundation or driven piles. The structure is generally made of steel beams. Solar panels generate more power when they directly face the sun.

The sun's position changes throughout the day and across seasons. In the morning, sunlight comes from the east and from the west in the late afternoon. Additionally, the sun is higher in the summer sky and lower in the winter. A roof-mounted solar system is fixed in orientation, determined by your roof's angle.

Setting Up Ground-Mounted Solar Panels with Tracking Systems

Ground-mounted solar panels can be enhanced with tracking systems, significantly increasing the amount of direct sunlight their photovoltaic cells receive. These trackers are of two types: single-axis or dual-axis, depending on their movement.

  • Solar panels can rotate horizontally from east to west and tilt up and down. A single-axis tracker can do either of these movements, while a dual-axis tracker can do both.
  • Among single-axis systems, those that track from east to west generally increase power output more than those moving from north to west.
  • Dual-axis trackers are more expensive than single-axis ones due to their complex design. However, they might be more cost-effective over time, offering greater efficiency through improved accuracy.

In certain locations, dual-axis tracking can boost a solar panel's electricity production by up to 40% compared to stationary setups. Single-axis trackers typically enhance output by 25% or more. Pole mounts are particularly suited for implementing solar tracking.

Ground-mounted solar panels are often chosen for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects as they're safer to install. Each panel weighs about 40 pounds, and fitting multiple panels on a roof can be hazardous without proper equipment, training, and a support team. With ground-mounted systems, the risks associated with working at heights are avoided.

Is Ground Mounted Solar Affordable?

While ground-mounted solar panels offer safer installation without the need for working on a roof and easier maintenance, their overall project cost tends to be higher. Here's why:

  • A separate support structure is necessary for the PV panels. In contrast, rooftop solar installations are typically less costly as the roof serves as the support structure.
  • The need for a support structure in ground-mounted systems also leads to increased labour requirements for the installation.
  • The process of obtaining permits for ground installations is more complicated, involving foundation work and structural design, and is considered a separate construction project.

Despite these costs, it's important to note that ground-mounted solar panels are generally more efficient. Additionally, when equipped with a solar tracking system, they can achieve even greater power output.

This enhanced efficiency means you could recover your investment more quickly. If you're interested in exploring the costs of a ground-mounted system compared to a rooftop system for your home, you can receive a free quote from a leading solar company in your area.

Final words!

Ground-mounted solar panels offer a unique and valuable solution for harnessing solar energy. They are particularly beneficial for those who have ample ground space and seek an alternative to roof-mounted systems. These panels can be easily positioned to maximise sunlight exposure, ensuring higher efficiency and energy yield.

Moreover, their ease of maintenance and adaptability to different terrains make them a versatile choice. While the initial installation might be more invasive than rooftop systems, the long-term benefits in terms of energy savings and environmental impact are substantial. Ground-mounted solar panels not only contribute to reducing carbon footprints but also pave the way for a more sustainable and energy-independent future.

Overall, ground-mounted solar panels are a valuable option for those looking to harness the power of solar energy. If you're thinking about making the switch, consider going to Going Solar Services for the installation of ground-mounted Make your living space a brighter, more sustainable place.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are ground-mounted solar panels?

Ground-mounted solar panels are solar energy systems installed on the ground rather than on a rooftop, designed to capture sunlight and convert it into electricity.

How do ground-mounted panels differ from rooftop panels?

Unlike rooftop panels, ground-mounted panels can be positioned and angled for optimal sun exposure, offering greater flexibility and often higher efficiency.

Are ground-mounted solar panels more efficient than rooftop panels?

Yes, they can be more efficient as they can be positioned to maximise sunlight exposure and are easier to clean and maintain, which keeps them operating at peak efficiency.

What are the space requirements for installing ground-mounted solar panels?

The space required varies based on the panel size and system capacity, but they generally need a significant amount of open, unshaded land.

Can ground-mounted solar panels be installed in any type of terrain?

Yes, they are adaptable to various terrains, though installation is easier on flat, unobstructed land.

Are ground-mounted solar panels more expensive than rooftop ones?

Initially, they can be more expensive due to the need for additional framing and mounting systems, but they may offer greater long-term savings in efficiency.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Author Fahad Zahid
Founder @ Going Solar

Joe Brennan, the founder of Going Solar, is dedicated to making solar power mainstream in Ireland and meet SEAI objectives. With a focus on affordability and sustainability, he is bringing renewable energy solutions to homes, reducing costs & environmental impact.