Ground-mounted solar panels: are they right for you?

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Ground-mounted solar is one way to install solar energy on your property. Before you decide to install a ground mount system, it is important to make sure you are the right candidate for this kind of project. Factors like space available, pricing, and electricity needs will all matter in deciding between a rooftop and ground-mounted solar installation.

What does it take to install ground-mounted solar?

Rooftop solar is not perfect for every property, and sometimes ground-mounted solar panels are the best option. In order to install a ground-mounted solar array, your property should meet some basic requirements. The three main items to consider before choosing ground-mounted solar are:

  1. Available space
  2. Soil type/geology of the land
  3. Financing options available

Space

One of the first factors to consider about ground-mounted solar panels is the physical space on your property it takes up. Unlike a rooftop solar system, a ground-mounted installation will take up new square footage on your property. You will need an adequate area to install panels on that gets plenty of sunlight, as well as space for trenching and running wires to whatever structure will use the solar electricity.

Make sure to check your property line as well to make sure any ground-mounted solar panels won’t encroach on a neighbor’s property area. Depending on where you live, your city or town will have unique setback requirements that dictate how close to a property border or road any structure can be built. You can contact the planning department of your local government for more information about setback laws.

In addition to space for the solar array, space and access points for contractors and installers to bring in heavy equipment is essential. A ground-mounted solar array requires a heavy-duty foundation, and your property needs to be accessible by the heavy machinery needed to install a new foundation and racking system.

Soil type and geologic factors

Ground-mounted solar arrays depend on heavy-duty foundations to keep them in place and thus need to be installed on a sturdy ground. For example, a ground-mounted array will not work on some low-lying coastal areas, as the wet, unstable ground might damage parts of the array or foundation.

Because of the need for deep, secure foundations, your soil must meet certain requirements. A common issue with soils is the presence of large rocks that get in the way of drilling foundations. Like most ground mount installation issues, there are ways around them, but you will end up paying significantly more money to ensure your installation is properly anchored in the ground.

Unstable ground space can also make ground-mounted solar difficult. In areas with less secure soil or rock formations, installing the proper foundation for an array will be difficult or impossible. Any property in or near an active seismic zone will likely not be suitable for ground-mounted solar. A soil or structural engineer can help survey your property and determine if a ground-mounted project is possible.

Financing

Between the cost of equipment and the intensive installation work, ground-mounted solar panels usually has a higher upfront cost than rooftop panels. Because of these differences, you should ask your financing company and installer if their products still apply for ground-mounted systems. For example, some loan products are only offered for installations within a certain price range, and the higher cost of ground-mounted solar can price an installation out of that range.

You may also run into situations where certain aspects of a ground-mounted installation (such as trenching) are not eligible for some rebates or incentives. It is always a good idea to have a discussion with your installer and research online to determine which local incentives may or may not apply to your new solar array.

Who should consider ground-mounted solar panels?

When shopping for solar, you can often get the best deal with a rooftop installation. Ground-mounted solar installations can be more complicated than rooftop arrays, but they may be the best option for homeowners in certain cases. If your roof is not suitable for solar or you have an especially large electricity need that needs more solar panels than you can fit on your roof, a ground-mounted system is a solid option.

Compare rooftop and ground-mounted quotes on EnergySage

No matter if you want a rooftop or ground-mounted solar system, the best way to start your solar shopping process is by registering for free on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and receiving quotes from qualified, pre-vetted installers near you. If you think you might want a ground-mounted array, simply leave a note on your profile telling installers that you’re interested in ground-mounted options.





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