What are the pros and cons of a ground-based solar PV system?
Posted by Jason Ramsdale on 29 January 2016 at 11:05 am
The majority of the solar PV systems installed in UK communities have been roof-mounted. While this may take advantage of unused space on your property there is the option of ground-mounting your array which has its own pros and cons which I outline below.
Pros of ground-mounted arrays:
- Maximise energy generation potential for properties without a south facing roof.
- Can be tweaked and positioned to maximise solar capture.
- Can be placed in areas with good air circulation keeping the array cooler and therefore increasing efficiency.
- Can be hidden from sight which could help avoid some planning issues.
- Easier to clean without climbing meaning greater efficiency.
- Not all rooftops are suitable for solar panels, some may be structurally unsound, have sub-optimal facing slopes, have Velux windows or vents.
- Can accommodate large or more panels if you have sufficient space.
- No need to penetrate your roof with bolts which could cause potential failures in the future.
- Ensures that you do not have to take down and reassemble your array if work needs to be done on your roof.
Cons of ground-mounted arrays:
- Require underground wiring and foundations to stabilize the array, adding both time and cost to the installation process.
- Can later become shaded by trees and buildings. Remember trees and hedges grow and neighbours like to build house-extensions!
- Take up space at ground level.
- Mountings and fittings can be more expensive than on the roof.
- Potentially more vulnerable to theft.
- Unlike roof-mounted arrays, ground mounted rays have no possibility of helping to protect your roof.
Ground-mounted arrays can be fixed onto either A-frames or stems. These arrays are usually fixed using concrete piles or raft foundations however some installers use a rammed earth technique or ground screws to reduce the environmental impact. Ground conditions, type of framework and weight of the panels all play a part in deciding what mounting anchor is best. The installer is best placed to guide you after surveying the site.
Along with guidance from an experienced installer, the amount of suitable unshaded space at ground level and on your roof should help you decide whether a ground based solar PV system would be suitable for you. Ground-based is certainly an option for a home with plenty of land - see Guy Dewdney's SuperHome in Somerset.
Image: Pole-Mounted Photovoltaic Array by Living Off-Grid
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