What You Need to Know About Ground-Mounted Solar Panels

What to Know Ground-Mounted Solar Panels

Ground-mounted solar panels are a popular and effective solution for harnessing clean, renewable energy. Unlike rooftop installations, ground-mounted solar systems offer greater flexibility, increased efficiency, and simplified maintenance. 

This comprehensive guide explores the installation and maintenance costs, primary features, distinct benefits, and relevant statistics of ground-mounted solar panels. Hopefully, homeowners and businesses can use the information to make informed decisions in their quest for sustainable energy solutions.

Installation Cost

Ground-mounted solar panel installations typically involve higher upfront costs compared to rooftop systems due to the need for additional materials, such as mounting structures and concrete foundations. 

The total installation cost varies depending on the production, size, location, and other site-specific factors.

However, the installation costs differ vastly between residential and commercial ground-mounted solar panels. The latter can run several hundred thousand dollars.

Maintenance Cost

Ground-mounted solar panels are relatively low-maintenance compared to rooftop installations. Routine maintenance includes cleaning the panels periodically to ensure optimal energy generation and inspecting the mounting structures for any signs of wear or damage. 

Cleaning roof mounts can pose a challenge, as it requires reaching elevated positions. On the other hand, ground mounts can be easily cleaned from ground level. Once solar panels are installed on a roof, they necessitate cleaning from a tall, elevated position and restrict the possibility of repainting the roof.

While maintenance costs may vary based on system size and location, they are generally affordable, and homeowners can expect to spend around 0.5% to 1% of the initial installation cost annually.

Primary Features

Ground-mounted solar panels come with several key features that set them apart from rooftop systems:

  • Flexibility in Location: Ground-mounted systems can be installed on open land, unused areas on the property, or even in remote locations, optimising solar exposure and ensuring maximum energy generation.
  • Adjustable Tilt and Orientation: Ground-mounted panels can be positioned at the optimal angle and orientation to capture sunlight throughout the day, further boosting energy output.
  • Scalability: Ground-mounted systems can accommodate larger solar arrays, making them suitable for residential, commercial, and utility-scale applications.
  • No Roof Penetration: Unlike rooftop installations, ground-mounted systems do not require roof penetration, preserving the roof’s integrity and reducing the risk of potential leaks.

Distinct Benefits of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels

Ground-mounted solar panels offer a myriad of benefits that make them an attractive choice for various applications:

  • Higher Energy Output: The adjustable tilt and orientation of ground-mounted panels ensure better sun exposure, leading to increased energy generation compared to rooftop systems.
  • Enhanced Air Circulation: Elevated above the ground, these panels benefit from improved airflow, which helps maintain lower operating temperatures, resulting in better performance and increased efficiency.
  • Optimal Land Utilisation: Ground-mounted systems efficiently use land that might otherwise be underutilised, such as fields or vacant lots, allowing homeowners and businesses to maximise their solar potential without compromising existing structures.
  • Easy Maintenance and Accessibility: Ground-mounted panels are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance, eliminating the need for complex and risky rooftop work.
  • Ideal for Challenging Rooftops: For buildings with inadequate roof space, shading issues, or structural limitations, ground-mounted systems provide a viable alternative for harnessing solar energy.

Ground-mounted solar arrays are increasingly utilised for utility-scale projects, with numerous solar farms boasting capacities exceeding hundreds of megawatts, contributing significantly to the world’s renewable energy capacity.

Case Study: Greenwood Solutions 

A solar farm in Philip Island produces about 360 kilowatt hours daily, which is enough energy to sustain a wastewater treatment plant serving about 19,000 consumers. Due to the absence of roof real estate, ground-mounted solar panels became the ideal solution.

The project uses Clenergy’s Solar Terrace 2 Racking System due to the specific soil type and its proximity to the ocean. It used three Fronius Eco 27 inverters and Fronius Smart Meter for accurate monitoring. 

The inverters were positioned at the array for serviceability. There was also a particular challenge, specifically where the inverters should be installed due to the underground service location. They had to put the inverter between the arrays and minimise the amount of effect of any potential shading. They used Canadian Solar 445-watt panels, considered tier-one panels and compatible with the Solar Terrace2 Racking System. Each panel is over two metres and weighs 20 kilos, which posed a challenge in itself. 

However, one of the benefits of ground-mounted solar panels is the ability to offload the pallets next to the array, so the lifting time won’t be as complicated.  

The ground preparation included supplying the array area of 350 square metres with a class 2 crush rock base, compacted to 150 mils. This worked out to be about 470 tons worth of compressed crushed rock.

This was because the water board could access their water carts, clean the panels, service the panels, and drive their vehicles down, so the area doesn’t get too muddy, and the grass grows below and above the panels. 

Ground-mounted solar panels offer a versatile and efficient way to harness the sun’s power for residential, commercial, and utility-scale applications. With their adjustable orientation, scalability, and superior energy output, ground-mounted systems present a compelling option for those seeking a reliable and sustainable energy solution. 

While initial installation costs may be higher, the long-term benefits of increased energy generation and easier maintenance make ground-mounted solar panels a wise investment for a greener and more sustainable future.