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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

08/24/2012

Alternative Mounting Options for Solar

How to install solar panels when your roof isn’t an option

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    If your roof can’t support solar panels, try adding them to ground or pole units throughout your property.

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    Ground-mount arrays are quick to install and can be used in a variety of soil conditions.

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    Pole racking systems are custom built to complement existing landscape and parking lot configurations. Whichever system you choose, these solar arrays are a highly visible way to demonstrate your sustainability initiatives.

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    Solar canopies are custom built to complement existing landscape and parking lot configurations. Whichever system you choose, these solar arrays are a highly visible way to demonstrate your sustainability initiatives.

Want to add renewable energy but don’t have a roof that can support a solar array? Don’t abandon the possibility of solar energy if your roof isn’t an option. Look to unused areas of your property instead.

Solar panels can be placed on parking canopies or ground- and pole-mount units. These additional configurations can achieve the same output or greater as a rooftop installation.

The Limitations of Roof Arrays
There’s no shortage of reasons why a building owner would pursue renewable energy – lowering your electricity bill, earning a point toward a green building certification, slashing your carbon footprint, or making a public statement about your environmental commitment are powerful incentives for any facility.

Among the renewable energy options available to facility managers, solar is perhaps the most comfortable and trusted. Its years on the market make it a proven technology with consistent performance and a quantifiable payback and ROI. Though rooftop solar arrays are a common option, they aren’t always the best fit for a commercial building.

Some roofs serve as an architectural element and the addition of solar panels would be at odds with the building’s design. Others are unable to support the added weight of solar racks and even if they could, the roof itself may not offer enough square footage to effectively produce energy.

“Roof mounts tend to be limited in size. Module spacing is determined by the roof size, so system performance might be restricted because of physical limitations,” says Joe Thomas, CEO and president of MAGE SOLAR, a solar provider. “The orientation and pitch of a roof will also determine what a system can ultimately yield because architectural and physical boundaries come into play.”

For other facilities, it’s not the right timing to add solar panels. Because the average life of a commercial roof and PV panels is 25 years, it’s best to add solar panels immediately after a roof replacement. But if you are in the middle of your roof life, you may not want to wait 10-15 years to secure solar energy.

Visibility and accessibility are also sacrificed with a rooftop array. Most arrays are hidden from public view, making it difficult to display a commitment to sustainability. And with PV panels tucked away on the roof, installation and maintenance can be a hassle.


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