Everything you want to know about ground mounted solar panels
Written by Andrew Sendy
Updated August 13, 2021
10 minutes read
When you think of solar panels, you generally picture them on the roof of your house. That's where they always go, right? Not necessarily. There's another option, called ground-mounted solar panels. What's the difference? And how much will that difference affect how solar power is delivered to your home? Here are some of the most common questions about ground-mounted solar panels, answered.
What is a ground-mounted solar panel system?
A ground-mounted system is just what it sounds like - a system of solar panels that are mounted on the ground on your property, rather than on the roof of your house. They can be placed anywhere from a few inches to a few feet off the ground.
Are ground-mounted solar panels better than rooftop solar panels?
In terms of the amount of energy produced, ground and rooftop panels are pretty much the same, at least on the surface. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, which we'll look at in the next section.
How do I know what solar panel system is best for my home?
While rooftop solar panels are the most common type, not everyone's home is suited to them. For one thing, solar panels need to face either south or west to receive direct sunlight. If your roof isn't positioned to allow this, then ground panels can be a good alternative.
On the flat ground, you can position solar panels in any direction you want to maximize sun exposure, unlike on a slanted roof. So, while on paper, the two types of panels may produce the same amount of energy, this advantage means ground panels often receive more sunlight, allowing them to generate more power, saving more money.
Your roof may also have obstructions, such as a skylight or chimney, which would make it difficult to install panels there. The ground generally provides more room to install more panels than the roof does.
On the other hand, panels on the ground can interfere with your home's overall aesthetic more than they would on the roof. Installation of ground panels also takes significantly more time and effort and is generally more expensive than rooftop panels. However, if your ground-mounted system is also able to produce more energy, then this extra cost can be offset over time.
How do I know if ground-mounted solar panels will work for my home?
You can install solar panels on the ground of any home, and they'll generate power. However, there are other factors to consider: if your yard is on the small side, there might not be enough room to install as many panels as you need. Additionally, if you don’t have the extra space, installing solar panels on the ground will leave little to no room for your lawn, flower beds, or other landscaping. If that's important to you, then rooftop panels may be a better option.
Does my energy consumption affect what solar panel system is best for me?
If your home uses a lot of energy, then ground-mounted panels might be better for you. Particularly if you have a lot of open space on your property, there's considerably more room to install panels than your roof has, allowing you to put in a larger system, to generate more power and better meet your needs.
How many ground-mounted solar panels does the average home need?
There are several factors that help determine this. First, look at your monthly power bill and find how much energy your household uses. Then look at the wattage of the solar panels you plan on installing. The higher the wattage, the fewer panels you need. Finally, determine how many hours of direct sunlight your panels will get per day. This varies depending on where you live, with desert states like California and Arizona getting more.
Once you have all of these figures, just do the math. So if you have 300-watt panels, which receive 5 hours of direct sunlight per day, they'll produce 1.5-kilowatt hours of electricity in that time (1,500 watts). According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household uses nearly 900-kilowatt hours of electricity per month, or about 30 per day. If each solar panel produces 1.5-kilowatt hours of electricity, then to offset your entire energy bill, you'll need 20 solar panels.
Where are ground-mounted solar panels installed?
Ground solar panels can be installed anywhere you have open space on your property.
You can use either a standard ground mount, which fixes the panels in one place, or a pole mount, which puts them higher off the ground. One advantage of a pole mount is that it can incorporate a tracking system, which allows the panels to follow the sun over the course of the day, providing more time in direct sunlight, and thus more energy produced.
What are the top-rated ground-mounted solar panels?
Here are the top five companies that provide ground-mounted solar panels.
- Panasonic - High quality and low priced, Panasonic has one of the best reputations in the business.
- LG - LG panels have one of the top conversion rates of solar energy into electricity.
- Canadian Solar - One of the best values for solar panels.
- SunPower - The most efficient panels on the market, their best solar panels have a conversion rate of 22.8%.
- Hyundai Heavy Industries - Their R&D laboratory is constantly working towards creating better, more efficient solar panels.
Ground-mounted solar panels can provide a number of advantages over standard rooftop panels. The extra energy they're able to produce can make them well worth the price. Do some research on your own, and talk to your local solar provider to find out how ground-mounted solar panels can best help you meet your home's energy needs.