Ground-mounted solar systems offer an alternative to roof-mounted arrays. They boast several advantages, including the ability to optimize positioning, increased efficiency in hot temperatures, and easier maintenance in snowy conditions. These systems are particularly beneficial for off-grid setups and maximizing winter performance.
However, ground-mounted solar also comes with some challenges. The installation requires excavation, concrete foundations, and a trench for the power line, resulting in higher material and labor costs compared to roof-mounted systems. Additionally, clear space around the panels is crucial to avoid shading from nearby trees, buildings, and power poles, making ground-mounted systems less practical in urban areas. Electrical code regulations may also require the installation of a fence to limit accessibility.
The choice of ground-mount structure for a specific installation is influenced by factors such as the type of ground (rocky or soil), slope, wind exposure, expandability, and adjustability. The best option among the mounting systems is determined by considering a combination of factors.
Multi-pole mounts are built using standard galvanized pipe and fittings. In open areas exposed to wind, they are typically installed in multiples of three (three-high) in landscape orientation, but in protected areas can be taller (four-high).
Pro: lowest cost of materials
Pro: can be installed on hard rock
Pro: built as a continuous row
Con: not great for sloped ground (esp. larger arrays)
Con: lower height and tilt requires more ground coverage (long arrays)
I-Beam mounts are continuous structures arranged in sets of two panels in portrait orientation.
Pro: easy to custom size
Mono-pole (Top-of-pole) mounts are typically individual mounts on a single, large-diameter steel post. These are most often configured using 12- or 16-panels, though many other options are available in multiples of 3, 4, or 5 including continuous systems with more than one pole. They are constructed with steel, painted, and extremely durable.
Pro: adjustable tilt (hand crank)
Pro: can be tilted to a high angle
Pro: can be built tall for additional ground clearance
Pro: aesthetically pleasing
Pro: works well on sloped ground
Pro: can be used as a canopy/carport
Con: higher material cost
Mono-pole (or Top-of-pole):