Solar Panel Mounting Considerations

Mounting your solar panels can be an afterthought when considering your first solar power installation. It is an important element of your design, however, and should perform reliably for the life of the solar panels.

A common mounting method for solar panels uses frames attached to the roof of a building. This is often preferred because of its simplicity, with the roof structure already in place. Simplicity can be good ammo to win any argument.

We would like to point out a couple issues with mounting solar panels on the roof, however. They are things to keep in mind for folks who live in northern climates, or who desire more optimal performance.

The first thing to think about is snow. Every time snow gets on the solar panels, they have to be cleaned or they won’t put out much electricity. If your solar panels are mounted to your roof then you can imagine this difficulty.

Those of us with this problem, then, might consider other ways to mount our solar panels. We have come up with one such design called the Rotek system. It was developed on homesteads in the mountains of Idaho and Colorado, where we receive plenty of sun and plenty of snow.

With this design, the solar panels are installed remotely rather than on the roof. This provides additional space beneath the panels which Rotek puts to use. The panels can be rotated to almost any angle with a simple move. This feature is good for making seasonal adjustments based on the Sun.

A second advantage comes in Winter when the solar panels can be rotated toward the ground, and operated at steeply sloped or negative tilt. This prevents the buildup of snow on the photovoltaic surface. It is also good for periodic glass cleaning, maintenance, or for dumping a load of snow if the panels were left up in a storm.

The solar panels can be left in negative tilt so long as there is snow on the ground. We all know how well snow reflects sunlight, so the panels will still receive their beam radiation. A simple adjustment is all it takes to restore the solar panels to their original tracking angle when desired.

The second big issue to consider is heat. As our roofs accumulate heat, they will increase the operating temperature of a roof mounted solar panel. Performance tests have shown that higher operating temperatures will reduce the solar panel’s discharge current. This lost current output can be as high as 2 or 3 amps depending on the unit, which correlates to better than 20% energy lost against baseline operation.

The Rotek system has the added benefit of running cool, because fresh air will circulate on the backside of the solar panels. The advantages with heat reduction are double. There will be an increase in electrical performance, and a general reduction in wear and tear from maintaining lower temperature.

So now that the decision is made to install your solar panel system, you must choose a mounting configuration. The roof mounted options are simple and in many cases a good choice. For those who want a little more performance and design flexibility, the Rotek system is a reliable and inexpensive alternative worthy of consideration.

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