Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners. In India, rooftop solar panels are prevailing. Most houses, residential buildings and commercial buildings have one or more solar panels on their roofs. Rooftop solar panels have therefore become a common term for anyone who knows a little about solar panels.

However, there is a second, less common method of installation: ground-mounted solar panels. These are rarely installed near commercial buildings, but you may see them used as shades in parking lots or walkways. You may also see them used as shades for small lakes or rivers. Most people don’t connect these solar panels with the ones installed on rooftops, even though the same PV module is used for both.

If the same PV module is used for ground-mounted and rooftop solar systems: what is the difference between the two? It is important to understand how each of the functions to understand the difference.

How is a rooftop solar panel installed?

A rooftop solar panel system is installed using a GIA stand. The structure is installed on an existing concrete ground i.e. the rooftop; and therefore, it does not require any preparation. The solar panels are often installed at a 30° angle from the ground. The solar panels are fixed using cement mounting blocks of approximately 4×4 inches. This ensures the solar panel won’t move during harsh wind or storms.

Once the solar panels are fixed using the mounting structure, the electrical work is done. This includes adding DC and AC connections to and from the solar panels to the home. Grounding stands are added to ensure any excess electricity generated does not overload the system. The stands ensure the electricity is redirected into the ground.

The height of the stand is adjustable and can be customized according to your needs. Many homeowners choose stands that are 5-6 feet in height and convert the space below the solar panel into a sitting area. Alternatively, small stands 2-4 feet in height are also available. However, since the solar panel needs to be tilted at a 30° angle for maximum optimization, the number of options are limited.

How is a ground-mounted solar panel installed?

The installation of a ground-mounted solar panel is unique for each project. Rooftop solar panels are installed on existing buildings with a stable, strong base. In contrast, ground-mounted solar panels do not have the same stability. The area can be made of sand, mud, soil or any other material. Therefore, most solar panel manufacturing companies customize a mounting structure.

The mounting structure requires civil work. The ground is first excavated and concrete is poured to give the structure a strong, stable base. This structure, often called the mounting structure, is often created in the entire area where the solar panel needs to be installed. In contrast, rooftop solar panels need only a 4×4 inches mounting structure.

Once the mounting structure is created, solar panels are fixed onto the mounting structure using fixers. These fixers are also made of concrete and are similar to the 4×4 inch blocks used in rooftop solar panels. Similar to rooftop solar systems, ground-mounted solar panels can also be installed using stands of various heights.

Ground mounted (left) and Rooftop mounted (right)

Merits and demerits of rooftop solar panels

Advantages of Rooftop Solar PanelsDisadvantages of Rooftop Solar Panels
They utilize space that is otherwise unused in most houses.There is no need for installation of the mounting structure, so the installation is cheaper.Other people and animals can’t access and damage the solar panel.They protect the roof from the sun, reducing the indoor temperature of the building.Due to the exposure to more air, they are more efficient.It cannot be done if the building is very old or is in poor condition.Mounting cannot be done if the roof is obstructed by other buildings.It is hazardous for installation and maintenance teams.It adds to the weight of the roof, which may not be good for all buildings.More solar panels cannot always be added.

Merits and demerits of ground-mounted solar panels

Advantages of Ground-mounted Solar PanelsDisadvantages of Ground-mounted Solar Panels
They can be installed to face any direction.They don’t pose a hazard for installation and maintenance teams.More solar panels can be added at any time.They can be made functional – as shades for parking lots, walkways, etc.Ground-mounted solar panels don’t affect the building at all.They have expensive installation costs due to the creation of mounting structures.The land cannot be used for anything else.The concrete mounting has permanent effects on the ground.Other people and animals can access and damage the solar panel.Difficult installation and decommissioning process.

How do you decide which one to install?

There are five important factors to consider when deciding the type of installation:

1.  Space availability:

Ground-mounted solar panels can only be installed if there is enough space. Additionally, this space cannot be used without decommissioning the solar panel. Therefore, the first thing to consider is whether or not you need the space in the future.

2.  Environment:

The environment around your property makes a significant difference. If you live in a dry area with a lot of sand, your solar panels will need frequent cleaning. This is possible for both ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels but is more expensive and hazardous for rooftop solar panels.

3.  Building qualifications:

Is your roof shaded from the sun by neighboring buildings? Is there shade during some part of the day? If the ground is shaded, is your roof exposed?

4.  Energy needs:

Do you expect your energy needs to grow in the future? Is there enough space on your roof or your property for his expansion?

5.  Budget:

As aforementioned, installing ground-mounted solar panels can be much more expensive than rooftop solar panels. If you do not have a large budget, a rooftop solar panel may be the best choice.

In most Indian buildings, rooftop solar panels are given priority because they do not require a large budget nor do they need a lot of space. Most solar panel manufacturing companies provide swift installation services that adhere to the government’s protocols and standards. Now that you’ve understood the difference between ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels, you can get started on your installation.