Because of their modular design, solar panels can be installed on the ground, as well as a host of other places.
This was demonstrated very well by the ‘PlanetSolar’ – a solar powered ship that circumnavigated the planet in 2012, on solar power alone.
Solar panels will produce power any time the photons present in sunlight come in contact with them. However, careful considerations should be taken if you want to maximize the amount of power produced by your investment.
Can Solar Panels Lie Flat?
Solar panels can lie on a flat surface, but the amount of electricity they can produce will be significantly reduced.
In order to truly capitalize on a panels’ potential, the solar cells in your panel must be perpendicular to the sun. This can be challenging as the earth tilts on its axis; meaning the sun not only moves across the horizon, but up and down in the sky as well.
If you were to be located close to the equator, this tilting is not such an issue. But the farther you move towards the north or south pole, the more dramatic the difference.
Understanding the dynamics of your exact location will go a long ways towards helping your panels give you the most power.
Ground Mount Vs. Roof
While the majority of solar panels are installed on house tops, there is the option of installing your solar array on the ground. Here are a list of pros and cons to consider for your ground mount.
- Perfect Orientation – Unlike a roof that was mostly likely oriented to a street rather than the suns’ path through the sky, your ground mount can be installed to really capitalize on sunshine.
- Easy Access – I can tell you from personal experience that solar panels with 6 inches of snow on them don’t work very well. If your panels are on the roof of a two-story house, then there isn’t much you can do about it.
- No Roof Damage – Sometimes, despite the installers best efforts, damage can occur to your roof. There are a variety of reasons why this happens, but unfortunately, it does happen. If your solar array is on the ground, then there is no risk to your roof.
- Cost – There is an additional cost for the support structure that holds your array. Some of these ground mounts can be fairly affordable, while other quite costly. Compared to a roof that is already paid for, the extra cost of a ground mount can deter a potential buyer.
- Space – Depending on the number and size of your panels, a solar array can be quite large. (Our array measures 15 by 32 feet) Not everyone has the ideal location for having a large array in the backyard.
- Visibility – Some people just don’t like the looks of solar panels. So having a large array so blatantly in the line of sight, can be an issue for some. When your panels are on the roof, they are not at eye-level (meaning out of sight, out of mind).
Is It Better To Install Solar Panels On The Ground?
In general, it is productively better to install solar panels on a ground mount – one that has been built specifically to optimize solar output.
Most house roofs are built to emphasize aesthetics rather than solar electricity output. And given that the optimal angle for each location will be different, according to their latitude (think earth tilting) it is very unlikely that a roof will be ‘just perfect’ for maximized return.
This is not to say that solar will not work for your home. Given the modularity of solar panels, an array can be built to adequate supply your power needs. Just understand that it will most likely take more panels on your roof, than it would on a ground mount.