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Intro to Ground Pole Mount Solar Racking

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IronRidge Ground Mount

There are a number of reasons why solar system owners consider using pole top racking solutions for their project. Roof and building structures may be too small to handle the number of panels you need, or the roof may be facing in a direction that does not provide an adequate amount of solar for your panels to work at their maximum potential. Ground mounted top of pole mount systems address both of these common site concerns.

There are a number of pole mount solutions such as: top of pole, adjustable pole, side of pole and ground mount. Which solution you will need varies by factors such as the number of panels you’re using, existing pole size restrictions, as well as terrain angle and soil class. Some of these variances are listed in the below chart. 

Which racking manufacturer you choose to utilize is typically very site specific, though each manufacturer offers some degree of flexibility in their product offerings. For instance, Tamarack Solar offers multi-pole mount systems that can accommodate more panels than their standard range listed below. While MT Solar offers the widest adjustable angle from its top of pole competitors, there are adjustable options available for each manufacturer.

Solutions # of Panels Range Compatible Panels Pole  Size Ranges Enhanced Offerings
Tamarack Solar Racking
Top of Pole, Side of Pole, Multi-Pole, Ground Mount / Flat Roof, RV Mounting & Single Arm 1-10 < 60, 60 & 72 Cell 4-6" Schedule 40 High Wind
MT Solar Racking
Top of Pole (Single & Dual Pole) 1-60 60 & 72 Cell 4-8" Schedule 40 Adjustable Tilt
DPW Solar Racking
Top of Pole & Side of Pole 1-18 < 60, 60, 72 & 72+ Cell 2-8" Schedule 40 Custom Built to Order
IronRidge Racking
Ground Mount & Roof Mount Applications 1-100+ < 60, 60, 72 & 72+ Cell 2-3" Schedule 40 Number of Product Offerings and Design Options
SnapNrack Racking Ground Mount & Roof Mount Applications 1-100+ < 60, 60, 72 & 72+ Cell 1.5" w/ 1.9" Outside Diameter Schedule 40 or 80Number of Product Offerings and Design Options

In order to learn the differences between pole mount systems, we will be looking at the following:

  • Top of Pole Mount Systems
  • Side of Pole Mount Systems
  • Adjustable Tilt Pole Mount Systems
  • Standard Ground Mount Systems
  • Installation Considerations
  • Solaris Recommendations

Top of Pole Mount Systems

Tamarack Top of Pole Mount

Top of pole mount systems are used in a number of commercial and residential installments. Tamarack Solar top of pole mount racking, for example, can be used for residential home owners that lack roof space. It can also be used in large commercial projects where a number of free standing solar modules are necessary. The majority of their mounts can accommodate between 1 to 6 solar panels. Their Multi-Pole mounts start at 10 solar panels and can be expanded in quantities of 6 modules by adding a third post.

For larger ground based pole mount systems, MT Solar can accommodate a wide range of panel quantities (between 1 to 60 panels). Their mounts are designed to be installed at waist level and then hoisted once module installation is complete. The mounts are adjustable from 0° to 90° with a twist of the crank that can be accessed from the ground. MT Solar Top of pole mount systems are mounted using either one or two poles (4", 6" & 8" Schedule 40), depending on the number of modules and cells that are being installed. These mounts can also be used in both residential and commercial applications and are ideal for any site that requires array rotation to maximize energy.

DPW Solar offers a range of custom mounts and can accommodate the majority of panels currently on the market and can accommodate 1 to 18 solar panels. Pole sizes vary between 2" to 8" depending on your module type and quantity. All designs are approved prior to order to manufacturing the mounts, this ensures that the mount will fit your design, be sure to plan in advanced as orders can take up to 6 weeks to fulfill.

All top of pole manufacturers offer upgrade sleeves for areas with extreme weather conditions such as heavy snow load and high wind speeds. Tamarack Solar offers high wind versions of their mounts which streamlines the installation process. Ultimately which manufacturer you choose to go with will vary depending on your specific project needs.

Manufacturer Downloads

Side of Pole Mount Systems

DPW Side of Pole MountSide of pole mounts function in a similar way to top of pole mounts, however they accommodate fewer panels than top of pole mount systems. Tamarack Solar offers mounts for 1 to 3 modules while DPW Solar can hold 1 to 2. There are also single arm mounts which are installed in a similar manner (i.e., on the side of a pole), this model typically hold a single module.

Side of pole mounts are typically used in small commercial and governmental applications such traffic signals, solar lighting, security cameras and so on. However they can also be used in residential and business applications and are popular with off grid system owners. 

On average, side of pole mounts can handle wind speeds up to 90 mph, upgrade options are available for areas which experience higher wind speeds. Both side and single arm pole mounts can be installed using 2" to 4.5" schedule 40 pipe. The mounts are adjustable for setting the array to the desired angle.

Manufacturer Downloads

Adjustable Tilt Pole Mount Systems

MT Solar Adjustable Tilt Mount

Adjustable pole mounts are useful for those who are looking to optimize the amount of solar radiation that reaches your solar modules. With adjustable mounts you can change the degree of your array throughout the day, or seasonally. MT Solar offers one of the most versatile solutions with their top of pole adjustable mounts.

MT Solar mounts can handle 1 to 60 modules often with one to two 4" to 8" schedule 40 pipe, though more piers may be needed for larger custom solutions. The mounts are adjustable between 0° to 90°, which also makes it easy to clear snow off of your array in addition to the potential energy savings.

The mounts rotate with a crank from the ground and are installed at waist level then hoisted up with the hoist chain. This installation process saves a significant amount of time in man hours and equipment costs.

The cost of adjustable mounts of this scale typically exceed ground mount projections. However, for those who need the functionality of having an adjustable tilt in order to full optimize their energy, the additional cost pay off in the long run.

MT Solar's competitors also offer adjustable mounts. The adjustable nature of these mounts is more in line with final installation angle and occasional changes (i.e., seasonally). With some mounts the degree of adjustability is more limited than zero to ninety degrees as well.The unique crank solution offered from MT Solar leads itself to more frequent adjustments.

MT Solar offers products for those looking for an alternative or more cost effective solution to tracking systems, which are now difficult to come by and expensive to install and maintain.

Manufacturer Downloads

Standard Ground Mount Systems

IronRidge Ground MountThere are a number of ground mount racking manufacturers on the market, the leaders being IronRidgeSnapNrack and Unirac when it comes to ground mounted solutions. Ground mount systems can accommodate a wide range of system sizes and are commonly used in residential, commercial and utility scale applications.

Ground mount arrays are configured between 3-5 panels high (rows) and up to 20 across depending on the environmental ratings in your area.

Ground mount systems are typically designed between 25° to 30° but can be installed in 10° to 45° angles. Ground mount arrays can be a great solution for sites with little roof space due to design, obstructions, shading, structure durability, etc.

Unlike adjustable top of pole mounts, ground mount systems cannot be adjusted after installation. However, ground mounts can be easily expanded with the addition of piers and racking. Be sure to plan your ground mount project, for best results research the best degree and direction to utilize the most sunlight all year round.

Schedule 40 poles range between 1.5" to 3", in terms of piping smaller diameters are commonly less expensive. Compared to the other pole mount options they require more piers, instead of one to two piers, more commonly six more piers are required.

Manufacturer Guides and Tools

Pole Mount Installation Considerations

Schedule 40 Pipe

The installation process for ground mount systems is different from roof mount. The first of those differences lies in the bill of materials, traditionally, ground mount racking utilizes stronger rails than roof mount arrays.

One example of this is IronRidge's XR100 series (common to roof) and the XR1000 series, which is the only series approved for ground mount systems. XR1000 series rails are typically utilized in roof mount installations only in instances of high wind and snow loads. Ground mount systems are more exposed to elements such as wind and thus require more durable hardware.

Secondly, installers should be aware of the necessary additional components which including: heavy machinery rentals (i.e., drills for foundation holes, which can be 6' feet or more), concrete, and the mounting piers themselves (most commonly schedule 40 pipe).

Finally, be sure to plan for electrical considerations when determining where to install your solar array. The further away from the home the longer the wire and potential for energy loss. Check local requirements for recommended underground wire gauge recommendations to ensure that you do not experience unforeseen energy deficiencies within your system.

Solaris Recommendations

Which pole mount racking solution you select is primarily driven by the number of panels you are planning on using in your system. As outlined above, some solutions offer a wider range of panel quantities than others. In addition, site conditions such as low sunlight may make adjustable racking a necessity.

During the initial planning phases, it is important to secure the most ideal site for your install. This means that you will need to select the appropriate installation angle for the system, the direction of the array, as well as its placement on your property.

See Here: Request a Pole Mount System Quote

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