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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.

Mounting Options:

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.

Conclusion:

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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Comments

2 comments - read them below or add one

Sims Solar Ltd

Sims Solar LtdComment left on: 1 February 2016 at 12:33 pm

An additional drawback, unless the size of the array is less than 9m2, you'll need planning permission.

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dee1kanbi

dee1kanbiComment left on: 30 January 2016 at 2:17 am

I have a ground mount system south facing. Have a look; http://youtu.be/6ZLESsXO1cs

 

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