3 Options for Installing a New Solar Energy System

Compare the Pros and Cons of Each Option

So you’re ready to install new solar panels.

You understand the huge savings you’ll reap in the long run because of power bill savings and tax incentives. You love the idea of energy independence and inflation-proof electricity from the sun. You appreciate the small but vital contribution you’ll be making to reduce pollution and help the earth.

But now, you’ve got a new question to answer:

What type of solar panel is right for my situation, and what are my options?

There are three types of solar panel arrays you can choose from, each with pros and cons. Take a look at each installation option, and decide which one is best for you.

Solar System Option 1: Rooftop Array

new solar energy system on home with roof angled in several directions has solar panels placed only on certain sectionsProbably the most common type of solar energy system, especially for residences, rooftop arrays have the advantage of not needing any additional land. They become part of your home. They’re also the most attractive option and are generally the easiest to install. That means faster and less costly.

On the flip side, you’re limited by the size and orientation of your roof. A roof with lots of angles and slopes may allow only partial coverage with solar panels, if some sections don’t face the right direction. See photo for an example of this – panels have to receive enough direct sunlight to justify being placed on a section of roof.

Also, any roof repair issues will be complicated by having panels on the surface. You can plan ahead for this by taking care of any repair or replacement issues before installing solar panels. And, if done in conjunction with a solar panel installation, your roof repair costs count as part of your federal solar tax rebate calculations. That means a 30% savings on the roof repairs you probably needed to do anyway.

Here’s a quick list of the pros and cons of rooftop solar arrays:

Rooftop Solar Advantages:

  • Requires no extra land
  • Compact placement is very efficient
  • Requires fewest extra materials
  • Most visually attractive option

Rooftop Solar Disadvantages:

  • Array size is limited by area of roof
  • Future roof repairs are complicated
  • Roof orientation limits where panels can be placed

Ideal choice for: residences, small businesses, large industrial businesses with big warehouses or farm buildings like poultry houses that have ample roof space.

Solar System Option 2: Ground Array

ground solar energy systems can be much larger than rooftop arrays, if you have the landThe ground array’s main benefit is space. Unlike the rooftop, if you have the land for it, a ground solar array can be as large as you need it to be. And because it’s not on the roof, you don’t need to worry about any future changes you might make to your roof. And, you are free to orient the panels in whichever direction will bring you the maximum direct sunlight.

Ground arrays basically address all the drawbacks of rooftop arrays.

But, they also require land. So if you don’t have the land, this just isn’t an option. And once you’ve committed land to a solar energy system, you can’t use that land for anything else. And 15 years later, you might get an idea for that land but be unable to act on it.

Ground Array Advantages:

  • No limits on size – only limited by land
  • No limits on orientation – max sunlight
  • No effect on future roof repairs

Ground Array Disadvantages:

  • Limits future land use options
  • Less attractive
  • More complicated to install – needs more equipment

Ideal choice for: Large farms and businesses with extra land. Homes with unused acreage who want to cancel out more of their power bill.

The Sacramento Kings’ new stadium uses both ground and rooftop solar panels on the new system they recently installed. They did this because they wanted to provide 100% of their energy from solar panels, and their huge roof still didn’t have enough space to do this for a whole stadium.

Read more about the solar energy system powering the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

Solar System Option 3: Trackers

A ‘tracking solar panel’ is essentially a panel that moves. That is, the panel can adjust its angle. Why would you want this? Because direct sunlight produces more solar energy. So if your panels can adjust their position toward the sky, you can get more direct sunlight throughout the day.

A panel fixed at one angle will get maximum sunlight for only a portion of the day. There’s no way around that, even if it’s placed in the most ideal position on a perfectly flat roof. The angle of sunlight still changes throughout the day.

With a tracker, a panel will ‘track’ the position of the sun in the sky, and receive direct sunlight for many more hours per day than a fixed solar panel. So a solar energy system with trackers will produce far more energy than a fixed array of the same size.

Trackers can be installed on both rooftop and ground solar energy systems. The only drawback is cost. They do cost more, because the technology is more advanced, as is the installation process. You’ll produce more energy, but the upfront costs are higher. So when deciding whether to install trackers, you just need to get accurate projections for when your system will have paid for itself, and compare that to a less efficient but less costly system with fixed panels. Then decide which one works best for you.

Tracker Advantages:

  • Produce more energy
  • Save more energy on power bill
  • Versatile – can work on ground or roof

Tracker Disadvantages:

  • Higher upfront costs

Ideal choice for: Anyone who wants maximum solar energy production as their top priority.

How to Choose the Right Solar Energy System for You

  • Get a good solar energy assessment for your home, farm, or business
  • Decide if a rooftop or ground system is best for you
  • Get cost and energy projections for a system with trackers, and compare it to a fixed array
  • Make an informed choice on the type of solar energy system you want to install

If you need more help or have more questions, contact Coastal Solar and a representative will get back to you.

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2017-01-10T01:34:28+00:00