Summary: The mounting structure is the supporting structure that holds the solar panels or arrays of solar panels to the ground.

When you see solar panels, whether on rooftops or on the ground, you see them mounted on metallic structures. What are these mounting structures made of, and do they play a role beyond being just support structures?

Mounting structures support solar panels on the ground, or on the rooftops.

Mounting structures made of steel or aluminium support the panels on the ground, and also tilt them at an optimal angle to receive maximum sunlight.

You might ask why solar panels cannot be directly attached to the ground. The following are the reasons

  • Panels need to be attached to the roof or to the ground. The panels themselves cannot be directly attached to the ground owing to their structure, and hence they need a separate mounting structure.
  • Solar panels need a secure fastening to the roof or ground to protect against winds. Mounting structures do this function.
  • Solar panels also require protection against water and other elements that gather on the ground or on the roof.
  • In case of rooftop solar, the roof might not have a suitable inclination to get the maximum from sunlight. Having mounting structures at a suitable angle can tilt the solar panels at an optimal angle.
  • You need some space between the solar panels and the ground for the cables etc. In addition, you need space for repairs and maintenance of the panels.

Questions from the curious cat

What are the mounting structures made of?

Mounting structures are usually made of steel, which is galvanised for protection against corrosion. Lightweight structures could also be made from Aluminium.

Do the mounting structures require maintenance?

Typically, mounting structures require little or no maintenance, unless these structures come along with solar trackers.

How much do mounting structures weigh?

There is a wide variety of mounting structures available, and hence it will be difficult to put down a specific number. However, in general, one can expect really lightweight mounting structures from Aluminium to weigh as low as 25 Kg /kW to sophisticated stainless steel structures that could weigh as high as 200 Kg/kW. The mounting structure area surely is an evolving field and one can expect many improvisations in design and materials in the coming years.

Are there lightweight mounting structures?

Yes. A number of companies offer lightweight mounting structures made of Aluminium, though it is not entirely clear which of the two structures – Aluminium or Steel – is better. It is quite possible that lightweight mounting structures are more suitable for specific types of roofs or land that might not require the durability of steel structures.

How much do mounting structures cost?

Typically, mounting structures cost about 10% of total system cost for large solar power plants and about 15% for smaller power plants.

Some nice videos for you

SunLock Mounting System Instructional Video – relevant for rooftop solar

Rooftop Solar Racking System

Here’s another nice video of a solar racking system, click here to see the video.