Installing Solar Panels? Considering Ground Mounting First

Photovoltaic systems (also known as solar PV power systems or PV systems) supply usable solar power by means of photovoltaic panels. While rooftop installations are more prevalent, building owners and managers who want to take advantage of the eco-friendly, cost-saving potential of PV systems may want to consider a ground mount installation, instead. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Existing Building Conditions – The current status of your building’s roof and the materials used will significantly impact installation maintenance and expense. For example, while your current roof may be older, it may still be too soon to need replacement. In a few years, however, a complete tear-off and re-roof may be required. Once a PV system is in place, re-roofing becomes more challenging. Panels will need to be removed and a careful installation of the roofing materials will be necessary.With a ground mount installation, these concerns are eliminated. Ground mounts are particularly attractive to those businesses/homeowners whose structures employ special roofing materials, such as an exotic Spanish tile, or who have a general concern about an installation that would penetrate their existing roof.
  1. Visual Impact – There is no way to hide rooftop solar panels. The panels will impact the look and feel of your building. Installing PV panels at ground level allows the building owner to position them in an area of the property where they will be less visible or can be screened from view, as opposed to a visually unappealing rooftop installation. The panels will still have ready access to the sunlight they need, it will just utilize a more discreet set-up.
  2. Space Efficiency – While placing PV panels on an existing structure is the most affordable installation choice, it does not allow room for expansion. Once rooftop space has been utilized, building a ground mount structure is the next most cost effective option in terms of structure cost per watt of energy generated. For areas where rooftop access on an existing building isn’t available, ground mounting is an affordable and effective alternative. Carports in parking lots are another option, but typically cost more than ground mounts.
  3. Optional Tracking System – Tracking systems may be incorporated into a ground mount design to increase panel efficiency. By automatically tilting the array to follow the sun, panel efficiency can be increased by a minimum of 25%. In those areas of the country where the sun is not as prevalent (Buffalo, NY, for example), this tracking ability can significantly increase the amount of power output. Single axis systems follow the sun from east to west, while dual axis systems add north-south axis tracking and movement.

When considering a PV system installation, consider all of your alternatives. A ground mount installation may be your best option – providing an affordable, expandable and more visually appealing solution to your solar power requirements.

Example of a ground mount PV system provided through a visually appealing carport installation.

K2N Crest has 5 years of experience in the evaluation, recommendation and design of structural solutions to support photovoltaic installations—including attractive, eco-friendly designs that utilize natural, indigenous, renewable resource materials. K2N specializes in creative problem solving in the practices of architectural design, structural engineering, architectural engineering, photovoltaic installation, interior renovation, forensic engineering and roof consulting.  Building owners and managers throughout Illinois and Hawaii look to K2N for their architectural, structural and roof evaluation needs.