​​​​Garden Solar Panels: Are They Right For My Home?

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Jack Ayre

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Solar Panels have been lowering energy bills for many tenants and homeowners in increasing numbers for the past few years. However, many homes have missed out on this green energy titan, and its many benefits, due to its inability to host rooftop solar panels for various reasons, whether it be the lack of roof space, or obstructions they can’t account for.

This has led many to look for alternative solutions. ESE Group has put together this article to inform those interested in ground-mounted solar panels within the garden, which are currently the best replacement for roof-mounted solar panels. Read on to find out more.

What Are The Different Types Of Garden Solar Panels Available?

Currently, two main solar panels are compatible with the garden.

Ground Mounted Solar Systems

Ground-mounted solar panels are installed using sturdy and weatherproof support structures, usually steel or aluminium. This is so that the face of the solar panel can be pointed at direct sunlight, to maximise the amount captured throughout the day. The actual ground-mounted systems’ structure is determined by the environment, such as how much space a solar panel will have, as well as local winds and snow loads. Of course, it also depends on how many ground-mounted solar panels you’re seeking to install. The actual fixtures can be the following:

  • Fixed-Tilt Ground Mounted Systems – This type of mounted solar panel system is basic and therefore cost-effective. They are fixed at one specific angle, and adjusted according to the latitude of the location. These simple mounts may not capture optimal sunlight year-round due to their consistent location.
  • Adjustable-tile Ground Mounted Solar System – This mount offers more flexibility, designed for ground-mounted solar panel owners who want to adjust their panels to maximise exposure based on the sun’s position seasonally.
  • Single-Axis Ground Mounted Solar System – This mounting type can automatically adjust the tilt angle of solar panels throughout the day and follow the sun. This is a reliable solution for garden solar panels and maximising energy production, but they come with a much higher cost.
  • Dual-Axis Ground Mounted Solar Panel System – These are by far the most advanced mount for ground-mounted panels. A dual-axis system has a tracking system that follows the sun’s movement in altitude and azimuth, which is basically vertical and horizontal. As you might expect, this means they come with a premium price tag and are considered one of the more complex tasks when it comes to installing solar panels.

 

A ground-mounted solar array in your garden is a good choice if you have a lot of otherwise unused space in your garden available. Usually, their setup is simple, and you have great flexibility in the layout.

Pole-Mounted Solar Systems

A pole-mounted system is a solar system installed with the primary components attached to a pole, or a vertical mast. A pole-mounted system is a decent choice for garden solar panels when there’s no space for roof-mounted solar panels, and even less for a ground-mounted system in your garden.

  • Fixed Tilt – This is the most basic type of pole-mounted solar panels, facing a single area optimised to gain as much solar power as possible all year round (but isn’t set up for specific seasons).
  • Manually Adjusted – This setup allows you to adjust the solar panels per season to maximise direct sunlight.
  • Single Axis Pole Mount System – These types of pole-mounted solar panels come with tracking systems, automatically following the sun’s path to maximise direct sunlight on a horizontal axis.
  • Double Axis Pole Mount System – The most advanced tracking systems and adjustable horizontal and vertical angles allow for these solar panels to be set up and gain more sunlight throughout the day all year round.

 

Pole-mounted panels are a good choice for homeowners with less space in their garden. On top of that, orientation options expand due to its elevated position.

Are Garden Solar Panels Worth It?

When comparing roof-mounted solar panels to garden solar panels, the differences, when taking output into account, are negligible. That being said, there are some advantages they have over roof-mounted panels.

  • Orientation – The angle that solar panel systems are faced at will dramatically impact your output. Whilst it’s possible for roof-mounted solar panels to have this same advantage, if the roof faces an awkward angle, there may be additional framework required to get the correct angle. In a garden, however, it’s much easier for solar panels to face the right direction.
  • Flexibility – Garden solar panels are flexible due to the increased space to work with. Even without much space to place solar panels, you can opt for a single pole-mounted panel system. This not only gives you the option of gaining more sunlight through its unique position but also frees up your garden for other uses.
  • Shading – There are plenty of potential obstructions that could compromise roof-mounted solar panels. Garden solar panels can be placed in various setups that can overcome shading purely through strategic layout.
  • Pairing – In the case that you do have space for both rooftop solar panels and garden solar panels, you have the potential to install more solar panels, or even split the installation between both areas. Nonetheless, more space means more electricity generation, and you could be well on your way to adding to the number of solar installations and solar farms in the UK.

 

All in all, garden solar panels give the same levels of output as roof-mounted panels.

Challenges Of Garden Solar Panel Systems

The following are some of the challenges that come with garden solar installation:

Planning Permission

There are some things you probably should know about planning permission before you opt for garden solar panels. In many cases, even attempting to install small ground-mounted solar arrays could require permitted development rights. But ground-mounted panels that exceed nine square meters are much more likely to require them. In a conservation area, it’s almost certain you’ll require planning permission. Please ensure you check your obligations before attempting to install a solar array.

Making Your Application

Your application requires several things:

  • Site Plan – Your site plan must be comprehensive, including a scaled drawing of your property with the proposed location of the solar array marked. The array should come with dimensions marked, supporting structures included, and ensure that clearances from property boundaries are accurate. It would be most effective if you had a particular solar panel system model included.
  • Visual Representation – Planning permission authorities will sometimes require visual representations of how the solar array will look post-installation. The aim is to give a clear understanding of the solar panel’s visual impact. As for how this is pulled off, it’s best to simply refer them to similar photos, or even generate a 3D model.
  • Planning Statement – A planning statement should clearly articulate the benefits of installing solar panels on your property. Solar panels are seen very favourably by planning boards, as the UK overall is trying to lower their carbon footprint.

 

Cost

Standard solar panels have four core components that contribute to overall pricing:

  • Solar Panels – The solar panels themselves are what will take up most of the cost. Their size corresponds with their wattage, they have several types (monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film) and many brands.
  • Mounting – Mounted systems come with a metal frame, but could have different configurations. For example, some can be adjustable in different directions.
  • Inverter – This essential component converts unusable DC power (from direct sunlight) to AC power (which is used to power the home). Without one, solar panels cannot use their energy.
  • Installation – Whilst Solar Panels can be DIY, we would always recommend going with professional installers.

 

Overall, Garden Solar Panels shouldn’t be any more or less expensive than roof mounted panels. The following is a table that elucidates this further.

CategoryDetailsPrice Range
Solar Panel System (4kW)Cost of panels without installation£6,000 – £8,000
Individual Solar PanelsCost per panel£150 – £500
Monocrystalline PanelsCost per watt£1.10 – £1.60
Polycrystalline PanelsCost per watt£0.80 – £1.10
InstallationLabour and additional components£1,500 – £2,000
Total Installation CostIncluding all components and labourUp to £10,477

Are you entitled to incentives?

As we’ve said before, the UK government looks favourably at solar panels and other measures to reduce the carbon footprint of the country. In fact, they’ve put up a lot of their own money in regards to schemes. Whilst a lot of these schemes have been and gone, the following are some of these incentives:

  • Zero VAT – From April 2022 until 2027, all solar panels benefit from zero-rated VAT. This provides immediate savings to your investment.
  • ECO 4 – ECO 4 is a scheme that is aimed at low-income households. If you receive income-based benefits, you likely qualify for a reduced fee for installing solar panels.
  • SEG – This incentive is only active after installing a solar panel. This gives you the ability to sell back excess electricity to the grid. The price is determined by individual energy suppliers.

 

Installing Garden Solar Panels

Garden Solar Panels have a couple of considerations to make before committing.

Assessing Suitability

The first thing to look for, obviously, is space. The main thing you’ll be deciding here is whether you’ll go for ground-mounted solar panels or a pole system. The following bullet points will go over the specific dimensions and considerations required:

  • Ground Mounted Solar Panels – Typically, the panels alone require around 5-10 square metres per kWp. The rows of panels will require spacing to avoid self-shading, and it’s required to leave 0.5 metres from the border and your solar panels.
  • Pole-Mounted Systems – The same calculation, 5-10 square metres per kWp, holds true for pole-mounted systems. The pole itself has a small footprint, and how much the solar panels will obstruct use depends on how high up the solar panels are elevated. Nonetheless, ensure they are built 0.5 metres within your border.

 

Choosing the Right System for You

If you are split between pole mounted and ground mounted solar panels, this may be the tiebreaker:

  • Garden Space – If you have other designs for your garden space, then elevated pole mounts may be better. This can allow for several enhancements, such as installing battery systems or using the space beneath for storage.
  • Expansion – Ground mounted solar panels are built with expansion in mind, with modular systems allowing for further growth, and pole mounted systems are limited.
  • Shading – If shading is a concern from ground-level vegetation, then pole mounted systems may be a better option.
  • Aesthetics – If you opt for ground mounted solar panels, it may clash with the overall aesthetic of your garden. A pole mounted system will reduce this by a margin.

 

Conclusion

Overall, using your garden space to house a solar panel is highly beneficial to you and your home. Not only can you lower the environmental impact of climate change by providing clean energy for the entire home, but you have greater flexibility, allowing you to adjust to the perfect angle.

Garden Solar Panels – FAQs

Can garden solar panels interfere with my home insurance?

Your Garden Solar Panels may affect your home insurance in several ways.

  • Coverage – For one, solar panels are considered valuable additions to the property. You’ll likely need to increase your home insurance coverage to account for the replacement cost in events such as damage or theft, though the latter is unlikely.
  • Premium – Ensure you notify your insurance before installing solar panels. Whilst some insurance companies will not charge a premium, others may slightly increase them. This is because solar panels have been known to increase the value of your home.
  • Installation Considerations – Some insurance companies may only cover the solar panels if it’s installed by a professional installer. Providing documentation of this is important, as if they feel it wasn’t properly installed etc. they may not cover you in events of damage or theft. 
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Born in North West England, Jack kicked off his career in the insurance arena, dealing with claims for three years. Always up for a challenge, Jack leapt out of his comfort zone and embarked upon 5 years of excitement with the military.

Working for the Ministry of Defence, Jack specialised in counter-terrorism which took him to places such as Dubai, Oman, Iraq, Norway and Bahrain. During this period he worked with various Governments implementing strategic operations to prevent terrorism.

After travelling around various countries Jack increasingly came across various forms of solar from large solar farms to domestic solar panels. From here Jack took a keen interest in all things solar and started reading about the technological capabilities with a view to entering the industry after his career in the Ministry of Defence.

Once home after 5 fruitful years, Jack had 3 months leave in which he immersed himself in a solar crash course and got applying for jobs within the solar sector. He came across ESE Solar, a long-established forward-thinking company whose head office was only a stone’s throw away from him. He picked up the phone to see if there were any vacancies and within a week had a successful interview and obtained a full-time job, starting in the technical team.

Within the first few months, Jack onboarded in various online courses during work and social hours to speed up his knowledge of all things solar. Due to his strong work ethic and thirst for knowledge Jack was promoted to Head of Technical at ESE Solar. He currently leads the team and oversees the product development of new technologies within the company alongside assisting where necessary on their maintenance department.

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