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A Guide to Ground-Mounted Solar Panels

With the current inflated costs of electricity, it makes financial sense to invest in solar panels. 
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When most people think about installing solar panels for their house, they assume that the roof is the best place for them. Normally, that’s right. There are some situations, however, when it makes sense to install a solar panel system on the ground instead. Usually, this is in places where there’s a reason not to use the roof and there’s also spare land available.   

What are Ground Mounted Solar Panels?

There’s no fundamental difference between roof mounted and ground mounted solar panels. Both systems use exactly the same solar panels and harvest the sun’s energy in the same way.

Both systems:

  • Provide you with environmentally friendly, renewable energy
  • Give you a good return on your investment, over their lifetime

 

The difference is just that roof mounted panels go on the roof, and ground mounted panels go on the ground.

For most people in the UK who want to generate solar electricity for their house, it will make sense to just install solar panels on the roof. If there’s enough space on your roof to fit solar panels and you don’t have an abundance of spare land, then roof mounted solar panels will probably be the way to go.

While that’s the case, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to each choice of location. In some situations, ground mounted systems may actually be a better choice.

The prerequisite for building a ground mounted system is that you need to have enough spare land. If you have spare land, then it may be worth at least finding out what ground mounted solar panels offer.

This article is here to help. Before we get into the details, though, there are a couple of things about ground mounted solar panels that need explaining.

Static vs Sun Tracking Ground Mounted Solar Systems

Ground mounted solar panels can be either static or sun tracking. As the name suggests, sun tracking solar panels move themselves with the sun to make the most use of its energy. Static panels, on the other hand, just stay still.

Often, one of the major advantages to ground mounted solar panels is that they’re more efficient than roof mounted panels. That’s the case with both static and sun tracking panels. With sun tracking ground mounted panels, the boost in efficiency is quite substantial.

  • Sun tracking ground mounted solar panels can be over 25% more efficient than roof mounted solar panel systems

Single vs Dual Axis Sun Tracking Ground Mounted Solar Panels

There are also two types of sun tracking ground mounted solar panels:

  • Single axis – These solar panels change their orientation as the sun moves (usually, by rotating around a pole) to keep themselves pointing in its direction.
  • Dual axis – These solar panels change their orientation and also change the angle they’re tilted at. As a result, they can adjust themselves to be even more efficient as the height of the sun changes throughout the year.

Do You Need Planning Permission for Ground Mounted Solar Panels?

The Planning Portal provides information about planning permission requirements for ground mounted solar panels here.  It’s important to check the planning regulations because you may need to apply for planning permission in certain situations.

To summarise a few important points, you will need planning permission if:

  • Any part of your solar panel system is over 4m tall
  • Your solar panels are situated within 5m of the boundary of your property
  • Your solar panel array covers an area over 9m2

For general information about solar panels and planning permission, have a look at our article here.

On This Page

Ground Mounted vs Roof Mounted Solar Panels

When it comes to comparing ground mounted and roof mounted solar systems, the most important things to think about are:

  • The availability of space
  • The cost and difficulty of installation
  • The energy production efficiency of the panels
  • Maintenance requirements
  • The visual impact and wildlife conservation

Read on to find our findings of the advantages offered by ground mounted solar panels. 

Advantages of Ground Mounted Solar Panels

Easier and Safer to Build​

Solar panels systems are a lot easier, safer and less disruptive to build when they’re sited on the ground. If you have the space available and you’re looking for a fast, cheap way to build a solar panel system, then the easiest thing to do will be to site it on the ground. The build process is also safer for the people doing it because they won’t need to work at height.

In some situations, it may also be cheaper as well to build a ground mounted solar panel system. Often, people assume this will be the case, given that scaffolding is needed to fit solar panels to a roof. As we’ll explain later, however, ground mounted systems are actually usually more expensive.

As we’ve mentioned already, one of the major bonuses to ground mounted solar systems is that they’re more efficient.

This is because they aren’t limited in the way that roof mounted systems are. With roof mounted systems, the direction that the panels point is heavily dictated by the direction the roof faces and the angle of its slope. This, in turn, dictates how efficiently they can harvest the sun’s energy. An east or west facing roof, for example, will be significantly less efficient than a south facing roof.

With ground mounted solar panel systems, the solar panels can be oriented and angled in the most efficient direction possible. As we already explained, sun tracking solar panels are the most efficient because they face in the optimal direction all day long.


Ground Panels are a Good Alternative if Your Roof is Unsuitable

If there are space limitations on a roof, then installing solar panels on the ground will allow you to overcome the problem. Similarly, if a roof is structurally unsuitable for solar panels, then building a solar panel system on the ground could be a good alternative.

Another situation may be if the only usable face of a roof is north facing. North facing roofs are usually unsuitable for solar panels. In this situation, a ground mounted system may be the only viable choice.

Solar panels don’t actually need much maintenance. For domestic solar systems, occasional inspections and occasional cleaning are usually all that’s needed throughout the life of the system. As such, for most people, maintenance requirements won’t be a big consideration.

While this is the case, there may be locations (dusty areas, for example) in which more frequent cleaning is required. There may also be reasons to carry out more frequent maintenance or monitoring. In these situations, having a ground mounted system will allow for far easier access.  

For more information about how often and how you should clean solar panels, have a look at our article here.

Ground mounted systems can actually be a good way to introduce a small scale wildlife conservation project. Where ground mounted systems are constructed and maintained in a way that allows wildflowers and wildlife to use the solar panel area, it can be set aside for wildlife conservation.

For an overview of how solar panels can be used to help wildlife, have a look at this report from Woodlands.co.uk.  

As you can see, if you do have the space available to build a ground mounted solar system, there are reasons you might think it’s a good idea. There are disdvantages to ground mounted systems as well though.

Read on to find out what the main disadvantages of ground mounted solar panels are. 

Disadvantages of Ground Mounted Solar Panels

Space Requirements

Having a ground mounted system will mean that you lose space to your solar panels. You won’t be able to make much use of an area where solar panels are located other than as a wildlife conservation area or for grazing animals. For most people, this is the major limitation. Most people simply don’t have the spare land available to consider building a ground mounted solar panel system.

As well as there needing to be enough space to build a ground mounted system, the available space also needs to be suitable.

Shade is the big thing here. The area that the system is built on needs to be free of shade. On roofs, shade is usually less of an issue because they’re usually elevated above most sources of shade. For ground mounted systems, it may be more difficult to find a location that’s free enough of shade to make it possible to efficiently harvest solar energy.

Flat, rural areas are often a good place for ground mounted solar panels.

As well as shade being an issue at the outset, the area will also need to remain free of shade throughout the lifetime of the solar panels. If there is a future development nearby which casts shade on the solar panels, this would reduce their effectiveness. As such, the area will need to be free of shade in the future as well.

s we said earlier, ground mounted solar systems are usually more expensive to build.

That may be a surprise given that access is so much easier for a ground mounted system. Extra materials are needed, though, and this significantly increases the cost. Roof mounted systems usually only require a mounting system to attach the panels to the roof. Ground mounted systems, on the other hand, need a support structure for this mounting system with footings, as well.

To find out exactly how much solar panels could cost for your house, get solar quotes from us.

Solar panels are quite safe when they’re installed on a roof. Usually, there’s little that can do any harm to your solar panels when they’re on your roof. This isn’t necessarily the case when they’re at ground level. Instances of damage occurring to ground mounted systems are more frequent, since they come into contact with people, lawn mowers and things like that.

The final disadvantage to ground mounted solar panels is that people often find them unsightly. This is most likely to be a problem where they can’t be sited somewhere out of eyeshot. If you’ve got a place where they won’t be an eyesore or if you don’t mind the look of solar panels, then this won’t be a problem for you.  

To get quotes for ground mounted solar panels, enquire with Switchable today.