Array Mounting Styles for Business & Agriculture

In the dynamic world of solar energy, businesses and agricultural enterprises are increasingly exploring efficient ways to harness the power of the sun. The market offers a variety of panel types, including thin film, monocrystalline, and polycrystalline, each catering to specific needs.

Regardless of the panel type, strategic placement is vital, often leading to two primary options: roof-mounted arrays and ground-mounted arrays. While experiments with innovative placements like building walls and floating arrays continue, roof and ground installations remain the go-to choices for businesses and agricultural ventures.

Roof-Mounted Arrays

Roof-mounted arrays are often what is imagined when considering solar. For businesses with little land to utilize, the rooftop canvas presents a compelling opportunity for solar integration. If your facility has a south-facing and relatively new roof, a roof-mounted array could be an ideal solution. 

It’s important to remember while evaluating a roof location that the installation should be considered permanent. If you are likely to move to a different business location in the next five years, it is worth waiting, since removing and reinstalling can cost approximately 30% of the original installation cost.

You also need to consider the roof spaces and the different types of roofing surfaces. Production of roof-mounted systems will be tied directly to the direction the array faces and the fixed pitch of the array. The roofing material will also play a role. Let’s evaluate some of the roofing materials:

Flat, Membrane Roofs 

This type of roofing material is an ideal match for ballasted mounting systems as you do not want to penetrate the roofing membrane. An engineering study is necessary to determine the amount of ballast needed at all the critical locations to secure the system. 

Because the pitch is only 5-15 degrees, these installations are straightforward as long as there are minimal obstacles on the roof.

Pitched, Shingled Roofs

If the pitch is moderate (= or < 6/12 pitch), asphalt shingle roofs can also be excellent candidates. Systems designed specifically for this roof type include flashings to prevent any kind of water penetration into the building. When installed correctly, you should have no worries about water leakage.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs introduce complexity in determining the best type of connectors. Standing seam and trapezoidal roofs utilize specific clamps, while corrugated roofs might require penetration, depending on their style.

Ground-Mounted Arrays

In agriculture and business, ground-mounted solar arrays are another excellent choice. They provide flexibility, enabling placement in optimal locations in areas with minimal shade, southern exposure, and close proximity to utility meters. Designs can also be scaled to match the budget and energy parameters more easily. An additional perk of using ground-mounted panels is that you can install bi-facial modules which have even greater productivity since they will absorb light from both front and back.

There are various considerations for ground-mounted systems as well:

Fixed Array

Set at a consistent pitch throughout the year, these arrays are not optimized in angle to create the highest possible energy output. However, these systems will still outperform roof mounted arrays in terms of energy production due to increased airflow.

Adjustable Array

Manual adjustments in spring and fall enhance production by 5 to 7% in this scenario. Strategic positioning aligns the array with the sun’s changing angles, maximizing energy capture during different seasons.

Tracking Array

Despite requiring maintenance, motorized tracking arrays follow the sun’s path, maximizing sunlight exposure throughout the day. This technology ensures consistent energy production, vital for powering agricultural operations.  However, introducing motors and moving parts to the array will increase O & M costs.

Strategic Decision-Making with Expert Guidance

In the realm of business and agriculture, making the right solar choice should involve an expert consultation. Qualified installers provide tailored solutions that take into account your unique requirements, budget constraints, and energy goals. With their expertise, businesses and agricultural ventures can embark on a sustainable journey, maximizing solar potential and reaping the benefits of clean, renewable energy.

VP & Director of Sales at Green Alternatives, Inc.

Cindy started as a consultant with Green Alternatives in 2009 and has moved into her current position within the last few years. She loves meeting with potential clients, answering their questions, and ultimately designing a PV solar system that meets their needs and goals.