When your roof is not an option, how to install solar panels

Don’t have a roof strong enough to hold a solar array yet want to add sustainable energy? If your roof is not an option, don’t give up on the potential of solar energy. Instead, focus on the vacant spaces on your property. These are the instructions How to Go Solar if You Can’t Place Panels on Your Roof 

Parking canopies, as well as ground- and pole-mount systems, can be outfitted with solar panels. These extra setups have an equivalent or higher output than a rooftop installation.

When your roof is not an option, how to install solar panels


There are numerous benefits to using renewable energy, including reduced electricity costs, points toward green building certification, reduced carbon footprints, and the ability to publicly demonstrate one’s dedication to environmental protection.

Solar energy may be the most cosy and dependable renewable energy alternative offered to site managers. Due to its long history on the market, it is a tested technology with reliable performance and a measurable payback and ROI. Although they are a widespread alternative, rooftop solar arrays aren’t always the ideal choice for a commercial structure.

Installing solar panels on a roof that also functions as an architectural feature would be incongruous. Others cannot hold the additional weight of solar racks, and even if they could, the roof may not have enough square footage to generate energy efficiently.

Roof mounts frequently have size restrictions. The size of the roof determines module spacing, therefore system performance may be constrained due to physical restrictions, according to Joe Thomas, CEO and president of solar company MAGE SOLAR. The angle and pitch of a roof will also affect the results that a system can produce because of physical and architectural constraints.

The time to add solar panels is not opportune for other institutions. It is advisable to add solar panels as soon as a roof is replaced because a commercial roof and PV panels have an average lifespan of 25 years. However, you might not want to wait 10 to 15 years to guarantee solar energy if you are in the middle of your roof’s lifespan.

A rooftop array also compromises accessibility and visibility. It is challenging to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability because most arrays are concealed from the public’s perspective. Installing and maintaining PV panels might be difficult because they are hidden on the roof.


You can install PV panels on poles or ground racks in place of a rooftop array. The only difference between each option and a roof array is the racking system. But with these additional choices, you can take advantage of panel orientation to boost output.

A property with available land, such as a college or a public or commercial structure with sizable grounds, is a good candidate for ground-mount systems. With the right location, they won’t obstruct already-existing landscape designs and may be installed in a variety of soil types.


  • Incorporate multiple purposes into parking lots
  • Provide shade to create upscale parking spaces.
  • provide EV chargers with net-zero energy
  • Use either continuously or as individual ports.

Ground-mount arrays allow you to change the panel orientations to improve sunlight absorption, unlike roof arrays.

According to Mike Grunow, marketing director for producer Trina Solar, ground-mount systems may be slanted at an ideal angle, which varies depending on how far south or north you are. “Due of their proximity to the equator, an angle acceptable in Texas differs from one in Minnesota. Because you have to take into account how much wind the panels might gather when using a roof array, the angles are constrained.

Additionally, ground-mount solar is generally quick and easy to install; all that is needed is a small crew to install the panels and a tiny amount of light trenching to secure the racking system.

Maintenance on ground mounts is simple, quick, and affordable because of how accessible they are. It’s not necessary to remove and temporarily store modules in case the roof needs maintenance or repair, according to Thomas. The same safety precautions that are necessary on top of a three-story building are not necessary when working on systems that can be visually inspected, cleaned up, and operated on.

Owners should be aware that they could require additional security measures in place because ground arrays are the most accessible. They are susceptible to theft attempts, vandalism, damage from cars (if they are next to a parking lot), and even rocks from lawnmowers.

Ground-mount arrays provide a desirable payback option in spite of these factors. In terms of ROI and straight-line return, Grunow asserts that ground-mount solar systems often offer the best economics. The least amount of manpower is required, and they install the fastest.


A pole-mount array may be an option if land space is limited. Like a satellite dish, PV panels are suspended on strong poles at a few feet above the ground.

Polar climates that experience blizzards can use pole-mount solutions. Some models let you store the panels vertically to prevent snow and ice accumulation.

Additionally, the panels include a tracking platform that enables them to slowly swivel, ensuring that they receive almost constant sunlight throughout the day.

Due to the additional materials needed for the tracking system and the pole construction, this arrangement is more expensive to install. These expenses can be easily offset by the fact that this kind of array can generate, on average, 25% more energy than its competitors.

Create electricity in parking areas.

If your parking lot is substantial, adding solar canopies will give it dual utility. The same amount of space as a rooftop may be found in parking lots, making them a perfect location for solar power production.

According to Thomas, parking canopies have gained popularity because they generate power while offering shade and cover in previously vacant places.

The installation characteristics of a pole-mount system are combined with the coverage of a ground-mount array in a solar canopy. Reinforced columns that are created to support the size of the array specifically support the canopy.

Panels can be set up as a continuous structure with a single slope or in a Y shape. Depending on your preferences and available funds, you could also decide to plant “trees” or individual canopies throughout a lot (see page 39).

The premium parking spot is created by both array styles, which offer shade. Pairing the canopy with an EV charger will make it even greener. Electric vehicle charging stations are a desirable approach to promote customer traffic to your establishment and your reputation for sustainability. You can give EV owners net-zero energy if solar panels are used to provide off-grid electricity.

Solar canopies can maximise the output of existing panels on a rooftop array to increase overall output. Canopies also make your renewable energy endeavours more visible, especially if your roof array is obscured from view. Canopies add an architectural component that can enhance the aesthetics of an otherwise monotonous parking lot.

Parking canopies, on the other hand, come with additional installation charges. Canopy supports must be made specifically for the dimensions of your solar array and parking lot. Depending on where you are, seismic reinforcement may also be necessary. These extra expenses could result in a 10- to 15% increase in the array’s initial outlay overall.


Think about where on your home is the safest place to put the array to ease any security worries. While some owners choose to erect a fence around the panels, others may choose to install a ground array behind the building in order to use it as a visual barrier. Usually, the pole and canopy panels are too high for vandalism.

According to Grunow, most PV panels, regardless of array type, include security screws that call for a special tool, removing the possibility that someone may accidentally take a portion of your system. You can point a security camera at the array if you are still concerned about theft or vandalism.

These diverse mounting techniques, whether you choose a pole, ground, or canopy array, provide more options for producing sustainable energy.


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