Solar PV Installation Locations & Roof Types

Understanding the Factors that Affect Your Generation

It’s important to address directly that not all locations are optimal for a solar PV installation; several factors come together to determine not only the viability but also the cost, performance, and efficiency of any installation. This fact sheet will cover what you can look for and what we would typically consider when specifying technology for your business.

Orientation in Relation to the Sun

The first and often most apparent when determining viability is the orientation of your roof or installation location. In the UK, we are positioned North of the course of the Sun, meaning that any mounting surfaces facing directly South are preferential. Although this does not imply that a combination of directions or necessarily your location isn’t suitable, it just means that generation will not be at its maximum.

Geographical Location

Typically, the UK isn’t known for its glorious all-year-round sunshine. However, the UK is still suited for excellent solar generation. The amount of potential generation is still high but is slightly affected by your exact location within the UK. 

A simple way of looking at this is the further North you are, the generation potential will reduce; the further South, it is typically better. However, we are talking relatively marginal amounts over the UK. Finally, closer to the costs can also result in better performance due to more wind exposure.

Roof Type and Mounting Materials

The next consideration for a Solar PV installation is easier to understand when split into three sections: pitched roof, flat roof and ground mount. Taking these three subsets, we will explain what they mean and the impact they can have on your installation.

Pitched Roofs

Around 70% of our installations fall into this category; however, typically, it also has the most variations, all of which can impact the complexity of installation and, in turn, cost and time to complete. The roof mounting typically creates circa 20-30% of the final price, so its impact is minor.

Metal Trapezoidal

The most common type of roof and most easily recognisable. These can be the simplest and easiest to manage from an installation perspective.

Metal Corrugated

Similar to Trapezoidal, these are relatively straightforward and can be installed on most roofs with rail and rail-less systems.

Metal Standing Seam

The most complex of the standard metal roof types as this installation required different hardware and, in some cases, a bespoke mounting bracket and clamp.

Slate/Tile

This type of roof adds a further time-scale of complexity to the job, as mounting involves replacing surface elements and refinishing the roof upon completion of the installation. We can offer solutions like flush-in-roof mounting and solar tiles if aesthetic concerns are considered here.

Asbestos

The most complicated of the pitched roofs, as a highly toxic substance, solutions for asbestos roofs can range from complete over-cladding to avoid the material, or in rare cases, mounting can be completed without penetrating the material.

Other

Although rare, we occasionally come across other roofing types; each is treated on a case-by-case basis, in which we can usually find a bespoke mounting solution.

Metal Trapezoidal – The most common type of roof and most easily recognisable. These can be the simplest and easiest to manage from an installation perspective.

Metal Corrugated – Similar to Trapezoidal, these are relatively straightforward and can be installed on most roofs with railand rail-less systems.

Metal Standing Seam – The most complex of the standard metal roof types as this installation required different hardwareand, in some cases, a bespoke mounting bracket and clamp.

Slate/Tile – This type of roof adds a further time-scale of complexity to the job, as mounting involves replacing surface elements and refinishing the roof upon completion of the installation. We can offer solutions like flush-in-roof mounting and solar tiles if aesthetic concerns are considered here.

Asbestos – The most complicated of the pitched roofs, as a highly toxic substance, solutions for asbestos roofs can range from complete over-cladding to avoid the material, or in rare cases, mounting can be completed without penetrating the material.

Other – Although rare, we occasionally come across other roofing types; each is treated on a case-by-case basis, in which we can usually find a bespoke mounting solution.

flat Roofs

The other type of roof we install on would be flat. The difference between flat and pitched is that with flat; we can designate the optimal angle of the panels towards the Sun, producing maximum generation; the downside is that the amount of equipment is increased, as well as the spacing required between each row of the array.

GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic)

GRP is known for its strength and durability, making it capable of supporting the weight of solar panels. This material is resistant to corrosion, which means it can protect your solar installation from the elements over a long period. Special care must be taken when installing solar panels on a GRP roof to avoid damaging the roof’s surface. This might require more complex or costly installation techniques compared to more traditional roofing materials.

Bitumen, Felt & Asphalt

Bitumen, felt, and asphalt are among the more affordable roofing materials. Installing solar panels on these roofs can be a way to upgrade their energy efficiency without the need for an expensive roof replacement. Bitumen, felt, and asphalt roofs, especially those with multiple layers, can be heavy. Adding solar panels requires careful consideration of the roof structure’s ability to support additional weight.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) / Membrane

EPDM and other membrane materials are known for their flexibility and durability, making them suitable for various environmental conditions. Special care must be taken during the installation to avoid damaging the membrane. Although some installation methods don't require penetration, improper handling can still lead to punctures or tears, compromising the roof's water integrity.

Other

Similar to Trapezoidal, these are relatively straightforward and can be installed on most roofs with rail and rail-less systems.

GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) Roofs – GRP is known for its strength and durability, making it capable of supporting the weight of solar panels. This material is resistant to corrosion, which means it can protect your solar installation from the elements over a long period. Special care must be taken when installing solar panels on a GRP roof to avoid damaging the roof’s surface. This might require more complex or costly installation techniques compared to more traditional roofing materials.

Bitumen, Felt & Asphalt Roofs – Bitumen, felt, and asphalt are among the more affordable roofing materials. Installing solar panels on these roofs can be a way to upgrade their energy efficiency without the need for an expensive roof replacement. Bitumen, felt, and asphalt roofs, especially those with multiple layers, can be heavy. Adding solar panels requires careful consideration of the roof structure’s ability to support additional weight.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) / Membrane – EPDM and other membrane materials are known for their flexibility and durability, making them suitable for various environmental conditions. Special care must be taken during the installation to avoid damaging the membrane. Although some installation methods don’t require penetration, improper handling can still lead to punctures or tears, compromising the roof’s water integrity.

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Ground mounted SOLAR PV

Finally, and often the largest of the installations, is ground-mounted solar, typically reserved for huge demand or those with a vast area to be covered. Ground mount typically produces the best efficiency and optimal performance from the panels due to ground installation equipment’s adaptability and purpose-built focus. For more information on ground-mounted solar, please see the ground mount section.

roof height & accessibility

To ensure all variables are covered, we must consider the height of the installation location. This variable can impact both the performance of the panels, installation complexity and, ultimately, the installation cost.

Solar Irradiance – Typically, the higher the solar panels are mounted, the more sunlight can reach them. This increase is due to reduced atmospheric interference, such as clouds, dust, and pollution. Ultimately, this positively increases the output of the panels.

Temperature – Solar panels mounted at higher locations benefit from cooler operating temperatures due to wind and environmental factors. Within sensible constraints, elevated panels generate electricity more efficiently at lower temperatures.

Wind Exposure – Locations at higher altitudes are often more exposed to wind. While wind can help cool the panels and prevent overheating, excessive wind speeds can pose a risk to the structural integrity of the installation. Any installations at height may require additional structural support and mounting systems
to ensure safety.

Roof Access – With any building, lack of direct roof access can pose various complications when combined with geographical location. We actively work with each client to ensure that any solution utilised to gain access to the roof is done so with as little impact as possible on daily operations. Our installers can complete most roofs with the correct scaffolding. However, some installations may also require crane access to lift materials and equipment to the installation site.

Health and Safety – Working at heights with accessibility limitations also brings compounded health and safety considerations. Our teams undertake all necessary risk assessments and implement appropriate working practices to prevent falls and other accidents.

Edge Protection and Man-Safe Systems – Clients often install additional roof safety precautions during installation. These precautions massively improve safety and ease the burden on maintenance and cleaning. Solutions we can provide include edge protection, such as guardrails and barriers, creating a physical barrier around the perimeter of the roof to prevent workers from accidentally falling off. Man-safe systems, including lifelines, anchor points, and harnesses, provide additional protection by allowing workers to attach themselves to the roof structure while performing tasks safely.

planning permissions

Planning permissions vary between the two main types of installation: roof and ground-mounted. In most instances, installing solar now faces little to no planning applications due to the nature in which rules and legislation have been adjusted to encourage solar PV installation.

We will still have to apply to your local district network operator for permission and capacity checks within the national grid; these checks can take up to 90 days.

Finally, if you are operating within a listed building, a leased or rented location, we would have to seek appropriate permissions from councils and landlords to ensure all parties are satisfied with the suggested installation.

Last Updated: 07/05/2024

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