Posted on May 9, 2023
Should we use roof-mounted or ground-mounted panels?
Whether you’re looking into solar panels for your home’s roof or a commercial or industrial facility, there are five main factors to decide if your building or land is a good candidate for solar power: sunlight exposure, roof orientation, roof condition, available space, and local regulations.
- Sunlight exposure: This is the most obvious and arguably most important factor. The Midwest is an excellent place to locate panels, but the amount of sunlight the location receives is critical.
If your building or land is shaded by trees, tall buildings, or other obstacles, it may not be a good candidate for solar panels.
- Roof orientation and pitch: Proper roof orientation and pitch determine where and how many solar panels can fit, generate power, and how they’re secured.
Ideally, your roof should face south or southwest and have a pitch between 15 and 40 degrees. But options exist for those that don’t.
- Roof condition: The condition of your roof is also essential to safely mounting them. If your roof is old or damaged, it may need to be repaired or replaced before solar panels can be installed.
- Available space: You also need to consider the available space for installing solar panels. This includes the roof and open land.
However, if you have a small roof or limited land, you may benefit from smaller, more efficient solar panels.
- Local regulations: Local regulations, including rules required by local utility providers, matter. These vary from region to region, but most every place in Indiana is favorable to solar systems. Some municipalities have specific requirements for solar panel installations, such as permits and inspections.
For homeowners, if your roof receives a lot of direct sunlight and has a suitable orientation and pitch, it may be a good candidate for solar panels. You should consult a local solar installer for more guidance on home solar systems.
Our expertise lies with healthcare facilities, school systems, governments, and other commercial or industrial operations interested in larger, more robust systems.
Solar system installation for commercial and industrial facilities
Compared to residential systems, there are additional considerations specific to commercial and industrial buildings. Solar panels for these facilities require more robust electrical systems, may benefit from batteries for excess energy storage, and tax benefits can differ year-to-year based on state and federal policies.
When our team examines solar potential, we’re considering where to place panels, evaluating ground-vs-roof or hybrid placements, and how to install solar panels without impacting other building systems, like roof-mounted HVAC units.
In addition to the factors mentioned above, our electrical engineers are looking at other factors for commercial and industrial solar arrays:
- Energy consumption: Energy consumed by the building impacts the size and type of solar panel system required. The number and kind of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed matter.
Our engineers assess the building’s energy usage patterns over the last twelve to thirty-six months to determine the most effective solar panel system for the building. We model these based on current and predicted trends to calculate average kilowatt-hour usage and seasonal changes.
- Roof structure: Similar to your roof’s condition, the size and structure of the roof will determine how many solar panels can be installed and how they can be mounted. For instance, a flat roof on a school has unique considerations in size and weight versus an airport terminal. An evaluation of existing structural on the roof will be required.
- Electrical systems: The electrical system of the building will need to be evaluated to determine if any upgrades or modifications are necessary to integrate the solar panel system. Sometimes this requires batteries, breakers, monitoring systems, and other infrastructure.
- Financial considerations: Environmental benefits matter, but our engineers won’t pressure anyone into installing systems if the financial math doesn’t work out for your benefit.
We’re looking at the short-term financial viability of the solar panel installation, long-term system costs, any available incentives for your sector or industry, and the projected savings over time.
Ground-mounted systems installed nearby can provide more solar power and flexibility
Ground-mounted solar panels lend a little more flexibility in suburban and rural settings, usually because they have more room for infrastructure. This sometimes makes renewable energy more practical compared to older urban structures.
A ground-mounted system has many benefits if you have the space and landscape to support it. Indiana’s relatively flat terrain makes ground-mounted solar PV systems attractive.
- A ground PV system can spread over more space than a roof, capturing more solar energy across more solar panels.
- Inverters, junctions, breakers, and utility boxes can be placed on a roof or flush mounted on walls, but ground solar panels give space for that hardware nearby on or underground, often shrouded behind bushes or other landscaping.
- Ground solar panels can almost always be installed at the precise orientation and tilt necessary for maximum sunlight exposure.
- Ground solar farms are easier to install and maintain and reduce the small risk of building wear from roof-mounted systems. Cleaning them is easier, too, particularly during winter when heavy snow can impact how much sunlight panels get in between cloudy days.
- Ground systems are more scalable, enabling your solar farm to expand and produce more as your acreage allows and energy needs change.
We’ve developed some expertise in creative ways to design these systems around existing buildings and landscapes, as well as combining roof and ground-mounted systems like at the Hamilton County Correctional Facility in Noblesville.
Get started with the right solar energy system for your business or organization
Our engineers can help you:
- Navigate power purchase agreement options with your local power provider,
- Ensure you get enough electricity and enough sunlight in the best placements and,
- Handle all the electrical hardware necessary to make your investment work for your building.
When you’re ready to go solar, contact an engineer for an initial consultation. How much electricity your solar panels generate can impact your savings. We can make sure you save money, generate more energy, and reduce costly solar installation mistakes.
We can also serve as professional solar installers, managing your project and helping you claim every available utility and tax incentive.