The cost of a solar installation depends on the type and size of system. The biggest factor is the number of panels needed to power your home — this is determined by your monthly energy consumption.
Other factors include panel types and battery storage (if your system is a hybrid). Labor makes up about 15% of the total cost.
When you think of solar power, the image that most people have is of roof-mounted panels. This is because this system has become synonymous with solar energy.
With a roof-mounted solar system, the panels are positioned along a set of rails. This is the most popular type of installation.
These rails are fastened to your roof by stanchions, which are basically giant screws. When the system is installed, you must ensure that the distance from one end of a rail to the other (diagonally) is equal.
This is because if it’s not, the panel won’t function at peak performance. Also, rooftop systems occupy space that you might otherwise use for something else, and they’re more likely to be subjected to damage from animals or humans than ground-mounted systems. Having said that, there are ways to mount your solar panels on the ground without sacrificing too much of the space you already have if you don’t want to use your roof.
A ground-mounted solar system enables you to use valuable land that may otherwise be used for something else. It also makes the system easier to access if it needs periodic inspections or repairs from your solar installer or electrician.
This type of system is a good fit for homeowners who have roofs that don’t face the right direction, are shaded or have too many obstacles to be suitable for solar panels. Your solar consultant can help you determine if a ground-mount is the right choice for you.
A standard ground mount consists of metal framing secured to the ground with concrete piers or helical piles. This holds the racking table, or mounting hardware, that supports your solar panels. These systems can be anchored in a fixed position, or they can be manually adjusted. This allows for different tilt angles to maximize your solar energy production. Depending on the location of your home and soil conditions, your solar consultant can suggest an optimal angle for your ground-mount system.
Carport solar arrays can be a great option for residential customers who want to offset their energy costs but have little or no roof space. They also allow for larger system sizes and more favorable panel placement and orientation than rooftop systems, which may be the deciding factor for some buyers.
For example, Rutgers University, the largest public university system in New Jersey, has installed a number of solar carport canopies at its campuses to reduce electricity bills and mitigate the impact of its buildings on the environment. The university signed a 15-year power purchase agreement with DSD Renewables to own and operate its solar canopy projects.
However, retrofitting an existing carport to accommodate the extra weight of PV modules can be challenging and expensive. MiaSole has developed solar application solutions to solve this problem by utilizing the company’s lightweight CIGS flexible solar panels that can be applied directly to standing-seam metal roof panels of any size and shape.
If your home is not suited for solar panels on the roof or you prefer not to invest in a rooftop system, there are still programs available that will allow you to benefit from solar energy. Check with local installers and your utility to see what options are available in your area.
Another option for residential solar is to install a grid-tied, third-party owned system on the property. These systems, often referred to as PPA’s (Power Purchase Agreements) provide homeowners with electricity at rates that are typically less than what they pay their utility.
During the term of a PPA, the homeowner makes monthly payments to the leasing company/developer in exchange for the energy produced by the solar system. This lease option is best suited for those who cannot utilize the tax benefits that come with ownership of a solar system. In addition, this type of solar installation requires a home energy audit to determine the appropriate size system for your household.