Roof Mounted Vs. Ground Mounted Solar System — The Ultimate Guide

Modern studies reveal that overdependence on fossil fuels could lead to the depletion of fossil fuel reserves by 2060. This is because 84% of the world’s energy needs are being met by fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, to be precise. Yes, we know that, but what are we doing to change it?

Developing renewable energy programs is a complex process that requires planning, implementation & constant follow-up. At the same time, the average cost of a solar energy system is between $10,000 & $30,000.

Governments in various countries need to provide their citizens with financial incentives while educating them about a solar system’s benefits. Solar panel technology has evolved with time. Buying modern solar panels with superior performance & efficiency is great, but proper installation greatly matters.

For solar panel installation, the most popular options are the ones below.

  1. Roof Mounted Racks
  2. Ground Mounted Racks
  3. Top-of-pole Mounted Racks
  4. Side-of-pole Mounted Racks
  5. Tracking System Mounted Racks

Which of the above is the best for your property? A non-specialist or a layperson (without technical knowledge) would have zero knowledge about it. This blog will explain the difference between roof-mounted solar panels & ground-mounted solar panels.

Roof Mounted Vs. Ground Mounted Solar Panels — Which one is better for you?

Whether it’s the installation of solar panels in residential, commercial, or industrial establishments, there are two methods — ground-mounted installation & roof installation.

Apart from the roof and ground-mounted solar panels, other options are available, like pole-mounting and wall-mounting, but those are less preferred. However, let’s leave this discussion for another time.

Most people know about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, but not everyone knows about the best solar panel installation method for their property. Between the ground and roof-mounted panels, there is no opinion that one can say is the best.

For roof panels, it all depends on the space available on the roof, the pitch & facing of the rooftop, legal restrictions, or planning issues. Examine the shape, size, direction, and condition of your roof, along with the climatic conditions at your location, to make the right decision.

Roof-Mounted Solar Panels

Most business owners and homeowners prefer roof-mounted solar panels over ground-mounted solar panels because roof space is unused for the most part. In contrast, ground space is usually reserved for parking, children’s play areas, storage, community centres, etc.

Moreover, the roof is where you can avail plenty of sunlight without any obstruction. Having an open space with no large trees or buildings obstructing the view is a huge plus because it will allow the solar panels to generate maximum power.

Roof-mounted installations also provide a sturdy foundation for your solar panels to maintain the perfect position for power generation. In most cases, roof-mounted solar panels turn out to be more cost-effective than other forms of solar installation. Even the mounting kit is reasonably priced.

Apart from the open area on the roof and zero obstructions, roof-mounted solar panels are secure and easier to install. The possibilities of vehicles, animals, or anything else hitting & damaging your solar panels are next to none.

Cost-wise, the commercial metal trapezoidal roof is less expensive than the residential roof tiles. This is because the time and labour required to install solar panels for homes are more than commercial solar panels. Roof access is also a vital factor.

Advantages of roof-mounted solar panels

  • More economical compared to ground-mounted installation
  • Needs less racking & installation
  • Optimal utilisation of unused roof space
  • No need to procure planning permission
  • More aesthetically pleasing
  • Works with limited space too
  • Increased security
  • Ground space can be used for other purposes

Disadvantages of roof-mounted solar panels

  • Tricky to access for maintenance, cleaning, or repairs
  • Roof pitch, angle & shape can pose hurdles for an ideal setup
  • Limitation of space can adversely affect power generation
  • Limited flexibility in size & direction
  • May require property owners to repair/renovate the roof
  • Shadows, trees & buildings may obstruct sunlight

Ground-mounted solar panels

With ground-mounted solar panels, you can have more control over the angle & orientation of the panels to enable optimal power generation. Solar panels are typically installed in a way that they face south or west. If your property’s roof is not located in that direction, opting for ground-mounted solar panels makes more sense.

Also, there is no need to install extra solar panels, as in the case of rooftop solar panels. (not facing south or west) It is relatively easier to harness solar energy in the Caribbean or other places that receive abundant sunlight all around the year.

Off-grid solar panels are ideal for countries with harsh winters. The perfect angle for off-grid solar systems is 45–55 degrees, and on-grid solar systems are 30 degrees for best performance.

You can’t expect such flexibility and customization from a rooftop solar system. Ground-mounted solar systems are comparatively cheaper & easier to install, great for properties where access to the roof is inaccessible or expensive.

When solar panels are installed on the roof, allowing no space between the rooftop and the panel, it leads to a considerable rise in panel temperature. (35 degrees celsius). Therefore, leaving a distance of approximately 150mm between the roof surface and the panel will result in optimal power generation.

Panels can get as hot as 65 degrees celsius in places with hot summers, which could reduce the power output by nearly 26%. Nonetheless, the equation is not simple because many variables affect the power output other than the coherent value.

On the contrary, ground-mounted solar systems function best at lower temperatures than roof-mounted solar panels, resulting in 25% more efficiency. Ground-mounted solar panels are available in various forms ranging from budget-friendly ballast systems to full-fledged solar systems deployed at solar farms. In some cases, ground-mounted solar systems may also require planning permission.

Advantages of ground-mounted solar panels

  • Easy access & maintenance
  • Robust racking & support
  • Directional flexibility
  • Greater options for placement
  • Options for bifacial panels
  • No need to repair or install a new roof
  • No chances of obstructions due to trees/shadows
  • Customized sizes
  • Facilitates easy cleaning

Disadvantages of ground-mounted solar panels

  • Uses up ground space
  • Inefficient use of space
  • Expensive installation
  • Complex & slower installation
  • Provides access to unauthorized visitors
  • Not good for smaller properties
  • Not visually pleasing
  • Increased chances of accidental damage
  • Added costs for fence installation
  • Needs mowing around multiple posts & lower clearances

Final Thoughts

Now that we have compared both ground-mounted and roof-top solar systems, we can safely say that no option is better than the other. Considering the pros and cons of each option and assessing your circumstances, you need to select an alternative that meets your specific needs.

For roof-mounted solar panels, consider the age & condition of your roof. Could the installation of solar panels affect your roof’s warranty? Understand these factors. Similarly, think about the long-term implications of a ground-mounted solar system. Are you willing to let the solar system occupy that piece of land for the next decade or more? Is the terrain favourable for ground-mounted solar installation?

If your roof receives plenty of sunshine and faces no obstructions, a roof-mounted solar system is the best for you. Property owners or occupants unable to access their roof or face space constraints can opt for the ground-installation option. In this way, they will be able to enjoy excellent financial and environmental benefits.

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Marlon Clements

The Caribbean is a region of the Americas that comprises the Caribbean Sea, its surrounding coasts, and its islands.