With the increasing cost of electric bills and growing environmental concerns, more and more people are now considering solar energy to power up their homes. With that said, most people think that the roof is the only place to install solar panels. However, while the roof is indeed an ideal place for solar installation, it is not the only option for homeowners.
There are instances when a solar rooftop installation isn’t practical or possible. If your roof is facing the wrong direction, too dilapidated, or gets too much shade from trees, chimneys, or neighboring buildings, there are other alternatives you can consider other than rooftop installations.
Experts from Impact Energy, a reliable solar provider and installer, share some more options for solar installation— whether for residential, commercial, or community solar generation:
With twice as many advantages as roof solar installation, ground-mounted solar panels are a worthwhile renewable energy investment if you have a wide, open property or backyard.
This is perhaps one of the most popular alternatives to rooftop solar installation and is more common in communities or solar farms.
In general, there are two common types of ground-mounted solar systems:
Fixed Ground-Mounted Systems
This type of ground installation is the same as rooftop systems, only that the PV panels are not fastened to your roof but are on a fixed metal scaffolding cemented in the ground.
Standard fixed ground-mounted solar energy systems are suitable for wide residential backyards where there is plenty of sunshine and suitable soil for secure construction. The panels are installed a few inches or several feet off the ground, accurately oriented, and angled for maximum sun exposure.
Pole Mount Systems
As its name implies, a pole-type ground system features panels situated on a single, tall pole. It is not common in residential areas but is more widely used on roadsides for powering traffic signs.
It is also suitable for acres of farm lots, providing plenty of space underneath where grazing animals like cows, sheep, and goats can seek shelter or shade. In addition, pole mount systems can support sun-tracking systems. This means that the panels can follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. This allows your panels to get as much solar energy as possible, increasing power generation efficiency.
Rooftop vs. Ground Installation
Contrary to popular belief, ground-mounted solar power systems are potentially more effective at capturing solar power than rooftop panels. This is because rooftop solar panels are often restricted by the placement of your home’s roof. If your roof is facing the wrong direction, has obstructions such as chimneys, or you have a neighboring building that cast shadows on your roof, then it won’t be that productive.
You’ll have to check the integrity of your roof and even if that’s not the case, it might not be big enough to accommodate your electricity needs. With a ground-mounted solar system, you don’t have to worry about these restrictions.
So long as you have a wide, open piece of land, a ground-mounted solar energy system offers better efficiency and versatility. You can size and expand your ground-mounted solar panel system to match your electricity needs while ensuring it captures the sun’s maximum energy. Plus, there’s also the advantage of easier maintenance due to its accessibility. Ground-mounted systems are also safer since they are installed far away and isolate the risk of fire hazards from your home.
And while it’s generally more expensive than rooftop solar panels, a ground-mounted solar energy system tends to be more cost-effective in the long run. With better efficiency and lesser restriction, you can generate enough energy to power your home and even sell the excess energy it generates.
The only downside of a ground-mounted solar panel installation is that they are more expensive due to the extra labor and materials needed for installation.
Solar canopies are custom-built outdoor structures that are designed to hold overhanging solar panels, allowing for distributed solar energy production.
Solar canopy is the umbrella term of a variety of solar structures such as:
- Solar carports
- Solar gazebos
- Solar pergolas
- Solar patio covers
Each type of solar canopy is designed to provide functional use of the space underneath the solar array. This is a key advantage and main point of difference of a solar canopy to other mounting methods such as rooftop and ground-mounted solar energy systems.
In particular, solar carports, also known as solar parking lots or solar parking canopies are the most common type of solar canopies. These are used in commercial and residential property, serving as a parking and charging station for electric vehicles (EV).
However, solar carports are not just for EVs. Most homeowners simply don’t want solar panels on their rooftops or don’t have enough land space for ground placement. In these situations, a solar carport is a great option especially if you’re looking to have an eco-friendly garage or parking lot for your car.
Meanwhile, other kinds of solar canopy structures like gazebos, pergolas, and patio covers work great in outdoor spaces such as backyard gardens and parks. The main advantage of these structures is that they create a shaded area for you to relax under. Thus, the space can be used for lounging, picnics, or barbecue parties.
Floating solar energy systems could be an eco-friendly option for areas with limited land but have usable calm bodies of water. A floating solar energy system is like a ground-mounted system. However, the panels are floating on water. Using marine technology, floating solar can be adapted to lakes, ponds, water reservoirs, and more.
Not common for residential use, floating solar is more popular for commercial and community use. It offers numerous advantages including:
Saves Land Space
A floating solar power system doesn’t need land. This allows for more efficient use of available land space.
As mentioned before, higher temperatures can reduce the power outputs of your solar energy system. However, overheating is not a problem with floating solar panels. Water has a natural cooling effect, which helps reduce rises in temperature of the solar panels, and thus, ensuring better solar energy efficiency.
Beneficial For The Marine Environment
Floating solar panels cast shade on the water, which helps in reducing the presence of algae that can disrupt marine biology. Not only that, but it also helps reduce evaporation and water loss, protecting aquatic wildlife and resources.
Ease Of Maintenance
Floating solar panels are built on water, which minimizes dust and dirt buildup on solar panels. Furthermore, most floating solar systems feature a maintenance walkway that allows for easy access when cleaning solar panels.
Floating solar is a wonderful and excellent alternative to traditional solar installation. However, since it’s a newer technology, installation tends to be expensive, making this option impractical for residential use. Specially trained installers and specialized equipment are also needed in order to set up this kind of solar system.
Furthermore, these panels are only suitable for specific locations. Floating solar panels will need calm and stagnant waters like lakes, large ponds, or reservoirs. Rivers and seas are not suitable for this type of installation. Also, the majority of floating solar systems are for large-scale consumption, so it may be difficult to find solar installers and companies using floating panels for residential use.
Wall-Mounted Solar Systems
In certain cases, particularly on commercial buildings, the flat roof space is already occupied by HVAC vents and other equipment. And for densely populated cities like New York City, a ground-mounted or floating solar panel system is not really an option.
However, there’s another option you can try. If your home or commercial building has a south-facing wall, then you can opt for wall-mounted solar systems.
If this is your only option, then you must be willing to accept the slight reduction in energy production. Although solar panels will receive optimal exposure with rooftop or ground installations, it is estimated that vertical solar panels can still produce at least 70% of the energy produced from flat or sloped roof systems.
Having vertical panels is advantageous during the winter season. That’s because vertical panels get more energy in winter since the sun is lower in the sky. Plus, snow doesn’t accumulate atop panels that can disrupt their efficiency.
However, when summer comes and the sun is high in the sky, you should expect reduced efficiency in capturing solar energy. Although not as efficient as other solar panel systems, vertical solar panels can still allow you to harness the energy of the sun if both rooftop and ground installation is not suitable for your property.
As you can see, the roof is not the only place to capture the energy of the sun. Whether your roof can’t support or accommodate solar panels, has too much shade, or is simply facing the wrong direction, you can try other options to adopt solar energy. From a yard that’s big enough to wide, calm waters to a south-facing wall, there’s potential for solar installation on almost any surface.