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Solar Panel Racking & Mounting

PV mounting hardware is an often-overlooked element of a solar array. While it obviously serves to secure solar panels to a roof or ground-mount poles, there are other considerations. Your solar panel racking should meet or exceed the snow and wind load threshold of the panels themselves, and should allow cooling airflow behind them.

There was a time when adjustable-tilt and sun-tracking mounts were good ways to squeeze more power out of your modules. But times change. The electrical and/or mechanical complexity of these solar panel racking systems are prone to problems and do not justify the modest gains in PV production they can offer. The cost-per-Watt of solar panels is so low these days that an extra module or two on a simple, fixed racking system is a much better investment in the long run.


"The best year-round angle for your PV modules is approximately equal to your latitude. Changing the tilt angle of your array seasonally as the sun angle changes gives only a minor increase in production and requires a lot of extra work; it's not necessary."

Solar Living Sourcebook 14th Edition
Chapter 3: Sunshine to Electricity

Calculating Rail Length

  1. Add module widths
  2. Add width of UFOs (universal fastening objects) between modules
  3. Add allowances for UFOs and Stopper Sleeves on both ends of the rail

Clearances

Depending on the location of the UFOs, the clearance value will differ.

Location UFO
Mid Clamp 0.375"
End Camp 1.0"

For Example:

To mount 5 modules that are each 40" wide, the row length is calculated as such:

Step UFO
1. Add module widths 5 x 40" = 200"
2. Add width of mid clamps between modules 4 x 0.375" = 1.5"
3. Add allowances for end clamps 2 x 1" = 2"
Total length of row 203.5" (16.96')

In this example, two 17' rails would be required to mount this row of 5 modules.

Solar PV Panel Mounting and Racking Hardware from Real Goods

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