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Solar in Gardening and Landscape Design

Solar for homes in New Jersey, is in most cases, on the roof of the home.  The roof has a solar structure that is already created. Often times, the roof pitch is at a good enough angle  and direction (azimuth) for solar already.

It’s a great solution to offset the home’s energy needs by utilizing the sun that would have come down and hit the roof anyway.  To an extent, its as if the roof is a “natural solar collector.”

Some solar home’s in New Jersey utilize solar ground mounts.  Although a bit more expensive to install, solar ground mounts can be great options.  A solar ground mount may be an option if there are roof constraints, or if the property has enough space to allow for a solar ground mount to begin with.   

Due to the optimal direction and pitch of ground mounts, These home solar installations can often have a great return on investment. In New Jersey, that would be 180 degrees south, with a pitch of approximately 40 degrees.  Some homeowners opt of a “low profile tilt” however, to keep the array out of site and as not to interfere with the home’s aesthetic. With the idea of solar ground mount aesthetics in mind, what are the options regarding the integration of solar with the landscape of the property – what is feasible, and what is safe to do?

Standard solar ground mounts installed by Green Power Energy are generally 2 feet off the ground in front and about 5-8 feet high in the back.  

They can be quite long too, at least 30 feet long most of the time, and with a depth of maybe 10 feet. This is sizable footprint for the average property, but not necessarily the type of space where you would want your children or pets to hang out.  There are live wires underneath ground mounts, and the risk of electrocution, if for example a child decided to grab at the wiring, is a real concern. In fact, many townships will require a fence to be put around a solar ground mount.

A safer option to integrate a home solar system into a yard, garden, or driveway setting would be with a solar pergola.  A solar pergola is safer because the wires will be well out of reach and often protected by the structure itself. The pergola can often be custom designed and look natural in the garden.  An advantage of solar pergolas to traditional pergolas is not all traditional pergolas have built in weather and shade protection. Green Power Energy has installed several solar pergolas. Our customers can have them installed themselves, and Green Power Energy will install solar on the existing structure, or we can coordinate with a building contractor or landscape architect and act as the General Contractor on the project.  

We have seen solar pergolas in gardens, close to pools, and as solar carports in driveways.

One disadvantage of solar pergolas, is it may not be feasible to build a structure large enough to offset the entirety of the home’s energy usage. In some case, we may see a solar pergola as a way to supplement an existing roof mounted solar array. One more disadvantage is that building a pergola itself can be quite expensive. The components of a solar ground are simply just concrete, schedule 40 pipe, and solar rail, whereas a pergola can involve a much more complex wooden structure.

Beyond a solar pergola, some homeowners decide to simply landscape around their solar array in a manner that lends to the property’s aesthetic.  

A low profile tilt, shrubbery around the array and gravel or mulch below can make a solar ground much more pleasing to look at. We have even seen solar ground mounts positioned around natural brims in a property which can hide the array all together as one stares at the horizon.  

There are also solar trackers which have the advantage of being taller off the ground so life can go on around the elevated, ground mounted solar structure. Some trackers track manually, while some are programmed to track depending on the axises of time of day and time of year.

If you have room in your yard, and your concern with a solar installation are centered around aesthetics, there is likely a solution for you which can take the standard blue looking solar panel on a curbside, and turn it into a sleek and seamless canopy over your garden.  When having a home solar installation in NJ it is important to give feedback to your solar company through the initial sales and installation process. You might find that your company, like Green Power Energy, offers more in their portfolio and have experience in more facets of solar than you may have thought.

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