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Solar Panel Mounting Information

Solar electric panel arrays for stand-alone systems are installed in many unique and innovative ways. However, there are common issues involved in any installation, whether the array is fixed or tracking, mounted at ground level, or on a pole or building.

The objective is a solidly mounted solar panel array that will last for many years and withstand all kinds of weather. Regardless of whether you buy or build the mounting structure make sure it is anchored and the modules are restrained. Several manufacturers make mounting structures designed to work with almost any solar panel model. This hardware is intended for multiple applications and different mounting techniques and considerations like wind loading have been included in the design. Using this mounting hardware is the simplest and often the most cost effective. Customized array mounting structures can be expensive. Consider the characteristics of various mounting materials:

  • Aluminum – lightweight, strong, and resistant to corrosion. Aluminum angle is an easy material to work with, holes can be drilled with commonly available tools, and the material is compatible with many PV module frames. Aluminum is not easy to weld.
  • Angle Iron – easy to work with but corrodes rapidly. Galvanizing will slow corrosion but mounting brackets and bolts will still rust, particularly in a wet environment. The material is readily available and brackets can be welded easily.
  • Stainless Steel – expensive and difficult to work with but will last for decades. May be a good investment in salt spray environments.
  • Wood – inexpensive, available, and easy to work with but may not withstand the weather for many years–even if treated with preservative. Attaching modules to a wooden frame requires battens or clips to hold them in place.

The foundation for the array should be designed to meet the wind load requirements of the region. Wind load depends on the size of the array and the tilt angle. Ask a local contractor how to anchor your array to withstand the wind expected in your area.

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