Ballasted Solar Racking vs. Ground Mounts for Residential Solar Installs
You’re probably aware of ground mount racking systems for solar panels. But are you familiar with solar ballast systems? This alternative racking system may be an effective solution for your solar needs.
Read on to learn more about ballasted solar racking to see if this mounting system is the solution for you.
What is Ballasted Solar Racking?
Ballasted solar racking is a type of ground mount. These structures essentially use the force of gravity to support and secure the solar array along the surface of the ground, as opposed to traditional racking systems that require posts, piles, footings or anchors driven or dug into the ground.
A ballasted system does not require any penetration of the surface, but rather uses objects or material (such as sand or gravel) as weight (or “ballast”) to anchor itself.
Different Types of Ballasted Ground Mount Racking
There are several types of ballasted racking systems in the market, and each is unique.
Some are similar to traditional racking systems from the ground up, and use steel or aluminum frameworks that attach to a ballasted base (instead of posts in the ground). This kind of ballast system can erect larger tables that hold stacked panel layouts.
Other ballasted systems, like the PowerRack Ballasted Ground Mount available here, are more minimal by design, foregoing framework structures that require assembly and instead using pre-fabricated pieces that integrate the base, frame and mount into one or a few pieces. Installation and disassembly is far easier, making these types of ballast systems more portable and DIY-friendly.
Ballast systems are your best option if you are installing your solar array on rocky soil or hard surfaces (more on this below), and can be your option of choice for other ground mount situations for a variety of reasons.
Benefits of Ballasted Solar Racking Systems
Let’s dive into some of the top benefits of using a solar ballast system for your installation.
1. Ideal for rocky soils or other hard surfaces
Fixed ground mounts require you to dig holes to anchor the system in concrete footings. If your installation site is on rocky ground or some kind of hard surface, penetration with traditional ground mounts is impractical — if not impossible.
Thanks to ballasted racking, it is now possible to install solar systems in places that were previously off-limits, or do not allow for ground penetration.
2. Simple, rapid installation
Ballasted racking systems are easier to install than rail-based ground mounts. There is no need to dig holes, drive posts or pour concrete, and you don’t need any special tools or skills to install ballast mounts.
The tubing necessary for rail-based ground mounts can be so heavy that it requires equipment to lift it into place. Ballast mount installations have an advantage at sites where bringing in equipment and heavy rail components may not be practical or possible.
Ease of installation makes solar ballast systems a great option for DIY installers, and can result in significant cost savings as well.
3. Cost Savings of Ballast Mount Systems
There are significant costs associated with rail-based systems that you will not incur using a ballasted ground mount:
- Freight costs to your site are lower for a ballast mount system
- Tubing costs add thousands of dollars to rail-based systems. There is no tubing required for a ballasted system
- Equipment to dig footings and/or handle heavy components adds costs as well. There may be site prep required for a ballasted system, and you may choose to or need to handle the ballast material with equipment, but there are almost always savings in this area that can range from partial to 100%
- Concrete for footings adds significant expense to a rail-based system. There is no concrete required for ballast mounts. The ballast material might be considered a similar expense. In some cases you can use native materials, but even if you have gravel delivered, your expenses will be lower than using concrete footings.
4. Portable, flexible and durable
Compared to traditional ground mount racking, ballast mounts are lightweight. An empty PowerRack ballasted mounting system weighs just 15 pounds! You can stack the PowerRacks for easy transport during installation and move empty units by hand.
After filling the PowerRack tub with sand, gravel or rocks, you’ll have a sturdy foundation that can withstand the test of time. HDPE has been used in construction for decades and is projected to have a useful life of 40+ years. And should you need to move or relocate your solar array, you can easily place a stack of PowerRacks on a wheelbarrow.
Continue reading for more information on the PowerRack system.
PowerRacks: The World’s Simplest Solar Ground Mounting System
The PowerRack, developed by PowerField Energy, is a unique patented ballasted ground mount rack that can be used with any available and inexpensive dry loose ballast material, like rocks, gravel or sand. The PowerRack rests at a 25-degree pitch angle and can accommodate a large weight capacity for optimal performance on the ground.
This system is ideal for do-it-yourself residential solar in rural areas or on agricultural land, and is also popular for commercial and utility applications. It is made in the USA from high-density polyethylene that is long-lasting and UV/weather-resistant, with a useful life expectancy of 40+ years.