Advantages for ground mount solar panel systems include the relative ease of installation and their flexibility in terms of tracking the sun across the sky. There are two main types of ground mount systems: pole mounts and roof-ground mounts.
These systems are much more common for rural, off-grid systems. They are less common in cities due to lack of space and aesthetic drawbacks (especially roof-ground systems). Many cities and neighborhoods have actually passed ordinances against installation of ground mount panel systems, so be sure to check with your city or neighborhood director before installing one.
Roof-ground systems can be mounted onto a roof or ground without much variation in setup. They are usually constructed from stainless steel in a grid-like system of supports. This framework can be very bulky. All systems provide some level of tilt and may be adjustable or fixed. Despite their bulk, in areas where high wind may be a factor, the mounts will need a strong anchor to the ground.
Maintenance can be a factor with roof-ground mounts but only to the extent that you will have to keep the area around them clear from possible panel shading. Many users will raise the mount off the ground using concrete blocks or short poles.
Pole mounts are a long popular solar panel mounting system. There are two types: top-of-pole and side-of-pole. Top-of-pole mounts essentially consist of a steel or aluminum rack that is bolted to a large sleeve which fits over a pole. Side mounts are usually used when mounting to a telephone pole, communications tower, or the like and typically involve smaller panels.
Top mounts are simple but difficult to install. They are simple in design but often difficult to physically install. Larger mounts can be very heavy and may even require a small crane or several people in order to set the mount on the pole. Pole mounts require a steel pole around 12 feet in length set in concrete. In softer soil you may have to dig quite deep because of wind resistance.
Pole mount systems may also include an automatic solar tracker which will track the sun across the sky over the course of the year. Although homeowners can usually adjust the panels themselves on a three month schedule.
Despite the simplicity of both ground mount systems, they are usually installed by a professional solar installer. It may be advantageous to hire a pro with experience to anchor and lift mounts and panels, not to mention wiring.
Several companies manufacture solar ground mounts and it shouldn’t be very difficult to find a mount to fit any solar panel.
Photo Credit: Real Goods Solar