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Solar

Roof mounted solar panels typically keep the wire run distances between the solar modules and battery bank to a minimum, which is good. But they also require roof penetrations in multiple locations (a potential source of leakage) and they require an expensive ground fault protection (GFP- device to satisfy article 690-5 of the National Electrical Code- NEC).


Ground mounted solar panels require fairly precise foundation setup, are more susceptible to theft/vandalism and excessive snow accumulation at the bottom of the array.


Top-of-pole mounted solar panels which are relatively easy to install (you sink a 2-6 inch diameter SCH40 steel pole up to 4-6 feet in the ground with concrete). Make sure that the pole is plumb and mount the solar modules and rack on top of the pole. Top-of-pole mounts reduce the risk of theft/vandalism (as compared to a ground mount). They are also a better choice for cold climates because snow slides off easily.


Side of pole mounted solar panels are easy to install, but are typically used for small numbers of solar modules (1-4) for remote lighting systems where there already is an existing pole to attach them to.


Trackers increase the daily number of full sun hours and are used for solar electric power generation. Trackers are extremely effective in the summer time when water is needed the most. In the northern U.S., typical home energy usage peaks in the winter when a tracker mount makes very little difference as compared to any type of fixed mount (roof, ground or top-of-pole). In this situation, having more modules on a less expensive fixed mount will serve you better in the winter than fewer modules on a tracker. However, if you are in the southern U.S. and your energy usage peaks in the summer, then a tracker may be beneficial to match the time of your highest energy consumption with a tracking solar array's maximum energy output.



If your site is in the Northern Hemisphere you need to aim your solar modules to the true south direction (the reverse is true for locations in the Southern Hemisphere) to maximize your daily energy output. For many locations there is quite a difference between magnetic south and true south The solar modules should be tilted up from horizontal to get a better angle at the sun and help keep the modules clean by shedding rain or snow. For best year round power output with the least amount of maintenance, you should set the solar array facing true south at a tilt angle equal to your latitude with respect to the horizontal position. If you plan to adjust your solar array tilt angle seasonally, a good rule of thumb to go by is latitude minus 15 in the summer, latitude in the spring/fall and latitude plus 15 in the winter. Most mount structures provide for a seasonal adjustment of the tilt angle from horizontal to 65. To determine if your proposed array site will be shaded at any time of the day or year you should consider using the Solar Pathfinder.

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