Different Types of Mounting Structures for Solar Panels

Feature image for the article about different types of mounting structures for solar panels

There are different types of mounting structures for solar panels that fit every specific situation. These mounts are what hold your modules in place, making sure that they’re sturdy, secured, and functioning as long as they should to give you cheap, if not free, energy.

I’m discussing all of your mounting options below. Oh, but don’t worry. Nothing here is overly complex.

That being said, here’s a list of all the topics I’m covering. Feel free to tap on any of the bullets to skip sections.

Ground- vs. Roof-Mounted Solar Panels

So you have two options for solar panel mounting systems: ground- and roof-mounted. Roof-mounted systems are the most common—and you probably already know a bit about them—so let’s tackle ground-mounted structures first.

Ground-mounted solar panels are best for those who have ample space.

The primary reason you’d want to choose this method is that ground-mounted solar racks are more adjustable. This gives you flexibility in positioning the panels for optimal sun exposure. And, since they’re on the ground, they’re easier to clean and maintain, too.

The caveat is that you would need a large enough plot of land that isn’t obstructed. Otherwise, your system’s size will be severely limited due to shading issues or a lack of space. Ground-mounted solar structures are also more visible, and some homeowners don’t find that aesthetically pleasing.

Roof-mounted structures are more common because of their practicality and availability.

It’s practical in the sense that there are far fewer objects that can obstruct the panel’s view from the sun if it’s mounted on the roof. Also, everyone considering using PV modules has a roof. Hence, the availability part.

The downside is that it’s not easily adjustable, nor is it generally installed that way. Orientation-wise, roof-mounted solar systems are also more bound by the tilt and direction of the roof. That’s mostly a problem for those of us with south-facing roofs, though.

That being said, one is not necessarily ‘better’ than the other; more to the point, there’s a ‘best option’ for you. So let’s dive a bit deeper.

Recommended: Is it wise to install solar panels on both sides of my roof?

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The different solar mounting structures for rooftop PV panels

For solar panels installed on sloped roofs

Infographic on the different mounting structures for solar panels on sloped roofs

Sloped roofs come in different types of materials, like shingles, tile, and metal. But, generally speaking, there are only a handful of ways solar panels are installed on these roofs, regardless of material.

1. Railed solar mounting structures

Needless to say, this solar panel mounting system requires rails to be anchored to your roof. Your solar panels are then attached to these rails.

This is what’s typically installed in Australian homes. And, with that, come many things.

For one, rail-based systems have been around for a long time. They have a proven track record of durability. So, if you live in a place with constantly harsh weather conditions, this system is a bullet-proof choice. They’re also more readily installed on different roofing materials.

However, they do require more time and skill to install. They also require more components. All of this adds up to a higher cost and a heavier load.

2. Rail-less solar panel mounting systems

Rail-less solar mounting structures are relatively newer, but they come with several tempting advantages already.

For instance, they’re lighter overall. This means your roof doesn’t have to carry more weight and could be a suitable option if it isn’t built to shoulder heavy loads. It also requires fewer materials and is faster to install, which, in turn, reduces your installation costs.

Many of its downsides boil down to it being a newer technology. It’s not as tried-and-tested as its railed counterpart, so there are concerns about its durability. This system is also compatible with fewer solar panels, which limits your choices.

3. Shared-rail solar panel mounting systems

This serves as the middle ground between rail-based and rail-less systems. The way I see it, though, it’s a more minimalistic version of the railed solar panel installation.

I say that because, yes, it still uses rails. The difference is that it uses less because two rows of solar panels can share a single rail. So, instead of using four rails for two rows of panels, for example, you’d only be using three.

Its pros and cons are also just the middle ground for railed and rail-less systems. It’s more cost-effective, lighter, and requires fewer roof penetrations than railed, but it’s also more expensive and heavier than rail-less.

For solar panels on flat roofs

Infographic showing the different mounting systems for solar panels on flat roofs.

1. Mechanically attached systems

Naturally, this system has mechanical attachments that anchor your solar array to your roof. Because of this, it’s also the method that you should be using if you’re living in an area with constantly strong winds.

The downside is that it requires roof penetrations, which would then need to be properly waterproofed. That, in turn, takes longer to install.

But, on the bright side, it’s also lighter, making it suitable if your roof isn’t rated for heavy loads. Oh, and many of these systems are installed at angles, too, so you can be sure to generate ample amounts of solar power.

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2. Ballasted systems

This type of solar mounting structure uses heavy weights instead of mechanical anchors. This inherently comes with a couple of advantages, including not needing to drill holes in your roof and the ability to reposition your modules as if they were just simple furniture.

For your installer, it’s way easier and faster to install, too.

I don’t recommend this if your roof isn’t rated for heavy loads, though. These ballasts are seriously heavy and might even disrupt your home’s structural integrity. Also, if you live in places with strong winds, I can’t recommend this system either.

3. Hybrid systems

Just like the shared-rail system for sloped roofs, hybrid solar mounting systems for flat roofs offer a middle ground between mechanically attached and ballasted systems.

They reduce the overall weight of the mounting structure because they remove some of the ballast trays and replace them with mechanical anchors.

Relative to ballasted systems, this makes them better in terms of handling high winds and overall weight. Compared to mechanically attached systems, hybrid systems also require less drilling in your roof.

Different types of ground-mounted systems

Infographic showing the different types of ground-mounted systems for solar installations

1. Fixed tilt ground mounts

These are the standard ground-mounted racks that are most commonly used in Australia. This is because it’s both easy to install and more affordable than the other options.

These are simply metal frames anchored to the ground, and these frames are what support your solar panels. This straightforward installation process makes it suitable for various terrains, including flat, sloped, and even rocky land.

Like everything else, though, it’s not without its caveats. Apart from the obvious land area requirement, these systems are non-adjustable.

2. Adjustable ground mounts

Contrary to the previous system with a fixed tilt angle, this, as the name suggests, can be adjusted. Of course, this comes with the strong advantage of being able to orient your arrays in ways that more efficiently process sunlight.

These systems can either be adjusted manually or automatically. There are also single-axis trackers that can be adjusted from east to west, as well as dual-axis trackers that can be calibrated from north to south (on top of the east to west adjustments).

The more adjustments your system is capable of, the more solar energy it can potentially generate.

The cost to install these is considerably higher, though. And, because it also has more moving parts, it generally needs more maintenance.

3. Pole-mounted systems

Pole-mounted systems are exactly what they sound like: solar panels on a pole. This comes with a handful of advantages.

For one, it’s generally adjustable, so you can either manually or automatically alter the orientation of your array to track the sun’s movement. It’s also more elevated, so there’s less obstruction, more sun exposure, and less space on the ground.

The downside is that it costs more because it’s more complex. The elevation also makes your modules more susceptible to wind damage, which may lead to more maintenance.

4. Solar carports and canopy systems

The way I see it, solar carports hit two birds with one stone. One, you get solar energy production that reduces your electricity bills. And, second, your vehicles are shaded and protected from hail, extreme heat, and others.

That being said, these types of solar mounting structures are often installed in parking lots. It also serves as a good opportunity to integrate EV charging stations if you have electric vehicles.

They are, however, more expensive to install than rooftop systems because of the necessary components.


While installing the most commonly known solar mounting structure is also fine, it’s good to know your choices. Especially since some of these options are not very well known.

With how much sun Australia receives, the continent is perfectly positioned to take advantage of these renewable energy solutions, whichever mounting structure you choose.

I trust that cleared things up for you. But in case you still have concerns, you can always contact us. We have pre-vetted solar installers that are prepared to assist. Just let us know, and we’ll send 3 FREE quotes from them your way.