Guide to solar mounting structure
The primary factors in any photovoltaic (PV) system installation are the solar panels as they are the devices that transform solar energy into electricity, cost ratio also over half of material.
Despite their importance, there are other secondary factors which also take a crucial part in PV designs, that is mounting systems.
Mounting systems secure the modules to the underlying material over a lifetime of potentially harsh outdoor conditions. Typically, the modules are securely fastened to the structure which, depending on the selection, could be of a bolted or foundation type or merely weighted down on the surface underneath (ballast system).
Materials for the mounting structures also change depending on local climates, for example, if you are located on coastal jurisdictions then you may be limited to the use of aluminum alloy due to its corrosion resistance.
At the end of the day, no matter the mounting system that you choose, the main purpose of the structure is to withstand the weight of the array components, the upward, downward and lateral wind forces under local design considerations, the seismic forces in accordance to local codes and the weight of snow if applicable.
Moreover, mounting systems do not only act as providers of structural strength for the modules but they also deeply influence the total system costs and efficiency of the PV array.
A mounting system can also set the orientation and elevation of a solar system, in order to maximize its energy performance.
The selection of one or another type of mounting structure will require higher or lower costs of materials, labor and installation, as there are more complex systems that require more expertise and therefore expenses.
Besides, the efficiency of arrays can be affected due to the selection of the mounting system, as for example, roof mounted options do not allow any modifications to the tilt and orientation of the array across the year. This could lead to less power output on the overall scheme (depending on the location).
On the other hand, ground mounted options allow modification of the tilt and orientation according to the season if desired, while single axis or dual axis systems can also be installed for tracking options.
Therefore, it is important to know the available options in the market to make the choice that better suits your needs and those of your solar system design.
Usually made from stainless steel or aluminum, most mounting systems are designed for universal application, and can come in a variety of styles including tilt frame, flat roof-mounted or ground-mounted.
They can be customized to meet the size and specifications of a PV installation, as well as the style of roof or installation.
A good mounting system should be easy to install, made from quality, rust-free materials – or materials with sufficient corrosion protection (such as galvanized steel) – and should effectively protect a system’s cables. The mounting system is the base of the solar system – a good base ensures the efficiency of your overall system, and a return on investment.
We will explain mounting structure of the two most common mounting systems. Roof mount and ground mount.