You’ll Have To Set Aside A Portion Of Land For The Ground
While ground-mount systems allow you to choose the best place to install your solar system in regards to production, you need to dedicate that area to the solar system.
The amount of land will vary with the size of your solar system. A typical home with a $120/month electric bill would likely need a 10 kW system. A system of this size would cover roughly 624 square feet or .014 acres.
If you have a farm or business, your electric bill is probably much higher, and youd need a bigger solar system. A 100 kW system would cover a $1,200/month electric bill. This system would span roughly 8,541 square feet or about .2 acres.
Solar systems will last decades, with many high-quality brands offering warranties for 25 or even 30 years. Keep this in mind when selecting where your system will go. Make sure you dont have future plans for that area.
Especially for farmers, giving up land means giving up income. In some cases, you can install a ground-mounted system thats several feet higher off the ground. This can allow the clearance required for growing crops underneath the panels. However, this will come with an added cost, which should be weighed against the profit of those crops.
Ground Mount Solar Panel Kits
Although ground-mounted systems are less common, they offer important benefits, including:
- Installation size if your property has a lot of unused land, you can install a much larger PV system and generate even higher savings.
- Orientation for properties without south-facing roofs, ground-mounted solar installations allow you to maximize your energy generation potential.
- Shading you can set up your solar panels in the sunniest regions of your yard to avoid shading.
- Fewer upgrades no changes to existing rooftops are necessary with ground-mounted systems
Mounting Solar Panels On The Ground Instead Of On A Roof Has Benefits And Drawbacks
- Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley
David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator.
As its name suggests, a ground-mounted solar system is a free-standing solar array mounted on the ground using either a rigid metal frame or atop a single pole. Ground-mounted systems can take the place of a rooftop system when the latter isn’t available or suitable. Both provide greater benefits than relying on fossil fuels for your electricity needs. Not every roof is suited for solar panels. but not every home has the extra space needed for ground-mounted panels.
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Introducing The Osprey Powerplatform
The Osprey PowerPlatform is a ground-mounted racking system that is revolutionizing the solar industry by making procurement, mobilization, and installation a breeze.
The most obvious benefit of the Ospreys unique design is speed:
- Using nothing but handheld tools, a 3-person team can fully assemble an Osprey racking unit in under an hour.
- Earth anchors provide unparalleled stability and support removing the need for costly, slow geotechnical reports or third-party inspections from specialized engineers.
These time-savings exist with smaller installations, but they can become even more pronounced as the size, scopeanddifficulty of projects increase.
For example, a 2MW ground-mounted solar system may normally take a large team more than 60 days to complete. That same installation can be finished in under 16 days when using the Osprey PowerPlatform.
As a result of this superior speed, your crews can install more ground-mounted solar PV projects per unit of time, allowing you to pursue more sales opportunities and increase your revenues, without having to increase the size of your team.
However, there are even larger benefits that await.
What Is A Ground
A ground-mounted solar power system is just what it sounds like – a system of solar panels that are mounted on the ground on your property, rather than on the roof of your house.
Ground-mounted solar panels can be installed any place on your property that has sufficient open space and good sun exposure. The panels can be placed anywhere from a few inches to a few feet off the ground, depending on how the racking system is set up. The panels feed power to a solar inverter, which is located either on the mounting system behind the panels or in the house.
Residential ground-mount solar installations are generally built using 60-cell solar panels – the same solar panel size typically used in residential rooftop solar installations. Meanwhile, larger-scale ground-mounted systems, like ones used in solar farms, tend to use larger, 72-cell solar panels.
Ground-mounted solar panels are also known as backyard solar panels, free-standing solar panels, and ground-mount PV systems.
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Introduction To Grounding Basics
There are three main reasons for grounding in an off-grid power system: safety, voltage transients, and the sheer fact that they are required for some loads. But before we address each of these, its important to understand the actual definition of ground.
There are two types of ground: chassis and electrical. Both are completely different grounds and must be understood correctly. Ground is just a reference point it does not always mean neutral.
the bonding of all exposed non-current carrying metallic objects together and eventually to the actual earth.
*Chassis grounds are done primarily for safety reasons. This prevents any possible potential buildup on the metal object that could cause a shock when there is contact with the metal. Remember! Voltage is just the potential difference between ground potential and some potential. Having your system mechanically ground would get rid of the difference. *
the connection of one of the current-carrying conductors to the equipment grounding system and to the actual earth. In a battery based system, it is recommended to connect one of the current-carrying conductors as close to the battery as possible, as the battery is typically the greatest DC source of power.
*As with chassis grounds, one reason to ground the electrical system is for safety however, electrical transients are another major reason.*
Ground Mounts Are Easier To Access
Ground-mounted panels will be easier to access over panels installed on rooftops. This can come in handy should you need maintenance or repairs for your panels. Itll be easier for solar technicians to access ground mounts, which can help keep costs down.
That said, ground mounts also make it easy for unauthorized people and animals to access your system. Anytime there is intense pressure on the panels, whether it be from climbing on them or hitting them, it can accelerate the degradation of your panels, and curious animals may even chew on wiring.
Oftentimes, solar owners will install a fence around their ground mount system to keep out unwanted visitors. In fact, this may be a requirement, depending on your systems size and the local rules. The need for a fence will be determined during the permitting process or during the inspection of your installed solar system.
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Install A Proper Grounding System:
Minimal grounding is provided by a copper-plated ground rod, usually 8 ft. long, driven into the earth. This is a minimum procedure in an area where the ground is moist . Where the ground may be dry, especially sandy, or where lightning may be particularly severe, more rods should be installed, at least 10 feet apart. Connect or bond all ground rods together via bare copper wire and bury the wire. Use only approved clamps to connect wire to rods. If your photovoltaic array is some distance from the house, drive ground rod near it, and bury bare wire in the trench with the power lines.
Metal water pipes that are buried in the ground are also good to ground to. Purchase connectors approved for the purpose, and connect ONLY to cold water pipes, NEVER to hot water or gas pipes. Beware of plastic fittings bypass them with copper wire. Iron well casings are super ground rods. Drill and tap a hole in the casing to get a good bolted connection. If you connect to more than one grounded object it is essential to electrically bond them to each other. Connections made in or near the ground are prone to corrosion, so use proper bronze or copper connectors. Your ground system is only as good as its weakest electrical connections.
Select The Best Spot For Ground
This is the most important preliminary step: choose the best spot in your garden to maximize your solar production. As mentioned in a previous article, solar panels love direct sunshine and hate shading, even partial.
Shaded solar panels can produce 10 times less energy than under full exposure!
Therefore, find the sunniest place in your garden specifically from 10 am to 3 pm when solar production is at its peak.
Next, ensure that your sport has sufficient space for your ground structure.
To do so:
- Calculate the total surface of your solar panel array
- Add 20% extra space to allow movement around your structure
As an example, a 400W solar panel roughly covers an area of 2 sqm or 21.5sq.ft.
Therefore, 6 solar panels cover a total of 12 sqm or 129sq.ft
The total area needed to install a ground structure for six 400W solar panels is around 15sqm or 155sq.ft .
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Solar Panel Grounding Faq
Does the Ground Wire Size Matter?
The ground wires have to be at least the size recommended by the NEC . The wire can be larger than the recommended, but not smaller. If the ground is not the correct size the grounding system will not work and your solar panel will be exposed to lightning and other hazards.
What Happens if the Wire Gauge is Too Big?
Using a larger wire will not cause any harm to your system. The only drawback is large wires are more expensive and require bigger clamps. But it will not cause any damage to your solar panels or appliances. Some would recommend using a larger wire than the minimum specified by the NEC as it is safer and more durable.
What Wire Size Should Be Used on an Off Grid Solar System?
The same wire sizes used for a grid tied system, at least #8 or #6 AWG. And just like grid tied homes, you should use more copper rods if the location is prone to lightning strikes. Most off grid setups have a backup power source like a gas or large battery bank, and they need to be wired properly as well.
Do Ground Wires Have to be the Same Size?
For convenience they should be the same, but you can use different wire sizes as long as it is not smaller than #6 AWG. However there should be no effect on the grounding system as long as the minimum size specs are met.
What if the Ground Wire is Too Small?
Can a Ground Wire Cause a Fire?
Does Ground Wire Have Current?
How Far Should Ground Rods Be From Each Other?
The Physics Of Grounding And/or Earthing
To earth an electrical system is to connect its non-current-carrying components or the body or enclosure of the system to the earth. The earthing component is connected between the equipment body or enclosure and the earth pit which is placed under the earth surface. The goal is to discharge the electrical charge directly to the earth.
Note: ‘Earthing’ may be used interchangeably with ‘grounding’ but technically, they do not necessarily mean the same thing. To earth means to connect the non-current carrying components while to ground means to connect the current carrying components to the ground. Solar panel systems are mostly earthed.
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Connect Cables At The Fuse Combiner Box
Connect the Cables to the Control Panels
Run the electrical cable from the solar array into the house through the underground conduit. Connect the cables to nylon rope for easy threading, then pull through the conduit to inverter panels.
Connect the cables at the fuse combiner box located at the base of the solar array. The green cables are first connected to the grounding strip. The red cables are connected to the PV out positive terminal block and the black cables are connected to the PV out negative terminal block.
Pro: Perfect Sunshine Alignment
When it comes to designing a solar panel array that will generate the most electricity possible, the biggest factor is, of course, maximizing sun exposure. For this reason, solar panels are usually installed on a south or west-facing surface.
If your roof doesnt have a south-facing pitch or gets a lot of shade throughout the day, then you may need more panels to optimize your energy creation. Ground-mounted panels eliminate this issue because they can be pointed in the optimal direction for sun exposure.
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Which Solar System Parts Have To Be Grounded
The solar panel metal frame, inverter frame, AC generator and the negative side of your solar system must all be grounded. If a wind generator is connected to your solar panel, it must be grounded too. The ground wires and the metal frame have to be bolted tightly.
Test your power system for leaks before grounding. Use a multimeter like the WeePro Vpro850L and set it to milliamp. Place the positive probe on your grounding configuration and the negative on the battery negative. The reading has to be zero.
Set the multitester to the lowest microamp setting and repeat the process above. If it is also zero, you can ground the power. If the tester picks up something up, inspect the positive as it might be touching the earth. The negatives should be grounded near the disconnect switch or the negative battery connection.
AC wiring and inverter frames should be grounded in the same way you ground other AC systems. Make sure the wires and cables are not corroded or worn out. Many inverters have grounding protection built in, but it is better to be safe.
Use the shortest wires possible for solar wiring. Set the wires in the frame and course them through a metal conduit. Run the negative and positive wires together as much as you can. Whenever possible, bury the wires to make it less susceptible to lightning.
How To Ground Solar Panels
Drive an 8 foot long copper plated rod into the ground at least 8 feet deep. The dryer the land, the more ground rods you should use. Space the rods 10 feet apart. Use clamps and #6 AWG bare copper wire to secure the rods together. The last step is burying the wire.
Before proceeding, check the plan that came with your permit. Instructions for grounding will be included. Follow them and you should pass the inspection easily. The #6 AWG is the smallest wire you should use. You can opt for larger wires, and you will probably pass inspection faster too. Only clamps for grounding should be used.
If your solar panel is at a distance from your house, place several rods close by. The wires should be buried at the trench along the power lines. You can also ground the wiring to metal water pipes as long as it is cold water. Avoid gas and hot water pipes.
Some more tips:
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What Does It Mean When An Rv Is Solar Ready
If youre shopping for an RV in recent years, youve probably seen the phrase solar ready or solar prepped associated with it and wondered what that is. They mean the same thing, which is that the RV comes with a built-in plug for certain solar panels to be hooked up easily.
The most common brand of solar panel that works with this plug is Zamp while several RV manufacturers are getting on board with the idea of putting out solar ready RVs, like Airstream and Pleasure Way.
While the RV may be prepped for solar panels, though, it doesnt mean that the plug-in will work for yours because the plug only works with certain polarities. This is an easy wiring fix if you know an electrician that can flip the polarity of the built-in plug.
Once you do that, you can use almost any solar panel on top of your RV and be converting energy in no time!
Case Studies: See The Osprey Powerplatform In Action
Installing the Osprey PowerPlatform is the single best way to see the above benefits in action. However, you can also read real-life examples of solar installers who have successfully deployed the Osprey ground-mountedrackingsystem in the field.
Below are some of our most recent case studies:
- A 75kW ground-mounted system for BR Samran Farms was installed by solar contractors in just 5 days.
- Installers working for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reduced their labor costs by 85%.
- From construction until power take-off, Papagni Wines 386kW ground-mounted installation took under 30 days.
Visit our Solar Projects page to read even more case studies.
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Generate Energy In Your Back Garden
Are you looking to be more energy self-sufficient and reduce your bills, but youre not sure about a roof-mounted solar panel system? A ground-mounted system could be for you.
It may be that your roof isnt suitable for roof-mounted solar panels, for example if its thatched. It may be youd just prefer not to have solar panels on your roof. Or it may simply be that you have a suitable area earmarked for a ground-mounted system.
The benefits of a domestic ground-mounted solar PV system are very much comparable to those of a roof-mounted system. Youll save on your energy bills for years to come by using free energy from the sun, youll reduce your carbon footprint and youll get paid for the energy you export back to the National Grid, if you sign up to the Smart Export Guarantee.
Solar panels are more affordable than ever before and renewable technology is getting smarter, making this the perfect time to go solar. To read more about domestic solar PV systems generally take a look at our main solar PV page.
We cant fault SunGift in any way and we recommend them to everyone we know who express an interest in renewable energy.