Solar PV Racking Types Explained


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  • What is solar PV racking?
  • Importance of racking in solar PV systems
  1. Ground-Mounted Racking Systems
    • Benefits of ground-mounted systems
    • Types of ground-mounted racking systems
      • Fixed-tilt racking
      • Single-axis tracking racking
      • Dual-axis tracking racking
  1. Roof-Mounted Racking Systems
    • Benefits of roof-mounted systems
    • Types of roof-mounted racking systems
      • Flush mount racking
      • Ballasted racking
      • Penetration racking
  1. Tracking vs. Fixed-Tilt Racking
    • Advantages and disadvantages of tracking systems
    • Advantages and disadvantages of fixed-tilt systems
  1. Considerations for Choosing the Right Racking System
    • System efficiency and energy output
    • Site conditions and location
    • Cost and budget
    • Design and aesthetics
    • Maintenance and durability
  1. Installation and Maintenance of Solar PV Racking
    • Installation process
    • Maintenance practices
  1. Conclusion
  2. FAQs
    • What is the purpose of solar PV racking?
    • Can I install a solar PV system on my roof?
    • What are the advantages of using a tracking racking system?
    • How long does a solar PV racking system last?
    • Is it necessary to hire professionals for racking system installation?


Solar PV racking refers to the framework or structure that supports and positions the solar panels in a photovoltaic system. Its primary purpose is to securely hold the solar panels in place and optimize their exposure to sunlight. Racking systems play a vital role in achieving optimal energy output and system efficiency.


Ground-Mounted Racking Systems

Ground-mounted racking systems are commonly used in large-scale solar installations, such as utility-scale solar farms and commercial projects. These systems are installed directly on the ground, either in a fixed-tilt or tracking configuration.

Ground Mount Racking

Benefits of Ground-Mounted Systems

Ground-mounted racking systems offer several advantages:

  • Maximized energy production: Ground-mounted systems can be optimized to achieve the ideal tilt and orientation for capturing sunlight throughout the day, resulting in higher energy yields.
  • Ease of maintenance: Ground-mounted systems allow easy access for cleaning, maintenance, and repairs, as they are installed at ground level.
  • Flexibility in system design: These systems can accommodate a wide range of panel sizes and configurations, offering greater flexibility in system design.

Types of Ground-Mounted Racking Systems

1. Fixed-Tilt Racking

Fixed-tilt racking systems are stationary and positioned at a fixed angle throughout the year. They are cost-effective and widely used in solar installations. Fixed-tilt racking systems are suitable for regions with consistent sun exposure and do not require frequent adjustment.

2. Single-Axis Tracking Racking

Single-axis tracking racking systems allow solar panels to move on a single axis, typically from east to west. This tracking capability enables the panels to follow the sun’s path, optimizing energy production throughout the day. Single-axis tracking systems offer increased energy yields compared to fixed-tilt systems but come at a higher cost.

single axis tracker
Dual Axis Tracker

3. Dual-Axis Tracking Racking

Dual-axis tracking racking systems provide the highest level of solar panel movement, allowing them to track the sun’s movement on both horizontal and vertical axes. This sophisticated tracking mechanism ensures maximum energy production by continuously adjusting the panels’ position relative to the sun. Dual-axis tracking systems deliver the highest energy yields but are more expensive and require additional maintenance.

Roof-Mounted Racking Systems

Roof-mounted racking systems are commonly used in residential and commercial buildings where space constraints make ground-mounted systems impractical. These systems are designed to be installed on various types of roofs, including flat roofs, pitched roofs, and metal roofs.

Benefits of Roof-Mounted Systems

Roof-mounted racking systems offer several advantages:

  • Space optimization: Roof-mounted systems utilize unused roof space, making them ideal for buildings with limited ground space.
  • Aesthetics: These systems can be integrated seamlessly with the building’s architecture, enhancing its visual appeal.
  • Reduced land use: Roof-mounted systems minimize land use and preserve open spaces, making them environmentally friendly.

1. Flush Mount Racking

Flush mount racking systems are designed to be installed parallel to the roof’s surface. They provide a sleek and low-profile appearance, making them visually appealing. Flush mount systems require minimal roof penetrations and are suitable for buildings with strong structural support.

Flush Mount Racking
Clenergy Ballasted racking systems

2. Ballasted Racking

Ballasted racking systems utilize weighted blocks or ballasts to secure the solar panels on the roof without roof penetrations. These systems are particularly suitable for flat roofs or buildings where drilling into the roof is not feasible. Ballasted racking systems offer ease of installation and can be adjusted to various tilt angles.

3. Penetration Racking

Penetration racking systems require roof penetrations for securely attaching the solar panels to the roof structure. They provide maximum stability and are commonly used for pitched roofs or buildings with strong roof structures. Penetration racking systems are versatile and can accommodate different roof materials.

Tracking vs. Fixed-Tilt Racking

When choosing a racking system, it’s essential to consider whether a tracking or fixed-tilt configuration is more suitable for your specific project.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Tracking Systems

Tracking racking systems offer the following advantages:

  • Increased energy production: Tracking systems can significantly increase energy production by allowing solar panels to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day.
  • Improved system performance: The ability to track the sun optimizes the angle of incidence, reducing shading effects and enhancing overall system performance.
  • Ideal for high-energy demand: Tracking systems are well-suited for projects with high energy demands, such as large commercial installations or utility-scale solar farms.

However, tracking systems also have some disadvantages:

  • Higher cost: Tracking systems involve additional equipment, sensors, and motors, making them more expensive to install compared to fixed-tilt systems.
  • Complex maintenance: Tracking systems require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. The moving parts and motors may require periodic inspection and adjustment.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Fixed-Tilt Systems

Fixed-tilt racking systems offer the following advantages:

  • Lower cost: Fixed-tilt systems are generally more cost-effective to install due to their simpler design and lack of moving parts.
  • Lower maintenance: Fixed-tilt systems have fewer components and moving parts, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements.
  • Suitable for most applications: Fixed-tilt systems are suitable for a wide range of applications, from residential rooftops to small commercial installations.

However, fixed-tilt systems also have some disadvantages:

  • Lower energy production: Fixed-tilt systems have a fixed angle throughout the year, which means they cannot track the sun’s movement. This results in slightly lower energy production compared to tracking systems.
  • Limited adjustability: Once installed, the tilt angle of fixed-tilt systems cannot be easily adjusted, limiting their flexibility for optimizing energy production in different seasons or locations.

Considerations for Choosing the Right Racking System

Selecting the appropriate racking system for your solar PV installation involves careful consideration of various factors. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

System Efficiency and Energy Output

The primary goal of a solar PV system is to generate electricity efficiently. When choosing a racking system, consider its impact on energy production. Tracking systems generally offer higher energy yields but at a higher cost. Evaluate the expected energy output and weigh it against the system’s upfront expenses.

Site Conditions and Location

Understanding the site conditions and location is crucial for selecting the right racking system. Factors such as available space, terrain, shading, wind loads, and local climate need to be considered. For example, ground-mounted systems may be suitable for open fields with ample space, while roof-mounted systems are more appropriate for buildings with limited ground space.

Find out more about how to use Clenergy ezQuote to calculate your wind region and racking requirements.

Cost and Budget

Budget plays a significant role in selecting a racking system. Consider the upfront costs, including the cost of equipment, installation, and maintenance. While tracking systems may offer higher energy production, their initial costs can be substantially higher compared to fixed-tilt systems. Evaluate your budget and assess the long-term financial benefits of each option.

Design and Aesthetics

For rooftop installations, aesthetics are often a consideration. Choose a racking system that blends well with the building’s architecture and complements its visual appeal. Flush mount racking systems provide a sleek and unobtrusive appearance, while ballasted or penetration racking systems may be more visible but offer other benefits such as adjustability and stability.

Maintenance and Durability

Consider the long-term maintenance requirements and durability of the racking system. Ensure that it is designed to withstand the environmental conditions of your location, such as wind, snow loads, and extreme temperatures. Additionally, assess the maintenance needs of the system, including any moving parts or mechanisms that may require regular inspection and adjustment.

Solar PV Racking Maintenance

Installation and Maintenance of Solar PV Racking

The installation of a solar PV racking system requires careful planning and adherence to industry best practices. It is recommended to hire professionals with experience in solar installations to ensure proper installation and system performance. Here are some key steps involved in the installation process:

  1. Site Assessment: Evaluate the site conditions, including the available space, shading, and structural integrity.
  2. Design and Engineering: Develop a detailed design plan, considering factors such as the number of panels, orientation, tilt angle, and attachment methods.
  3. Foundation Preparation: Depending on the racking system, prepare the foundation for ground-mounted systems or assess the roof structure for roof-mounted systems.
  4. Racking Installation: Install the racking components according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring proper alignment and structural integrity.
  5. Panel Mounting: Securely attach the solar panels to the racking system, following the manufacturer’s guidelines and local regulations.
  6. Electrical Wiring: Connect the panels to the electrical system, ensuring proper wiring, grounding, and compliance with electrical codes.
  7. Testing and Commissioning: Conduct a thorough system test to verify proper functionality and performance.
  8. Maintenance: Establish a maintenance schedule that includes regular inspections, cleaning of panels, and monitoring system performance.

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the long-term efficiency and durability of the solar PV racking system. It is recommended to perform periodic inspections, check for any loose connections or damaged components, and clean the panels to remove dust, dirt, or debris that can hinder energy production.

This maintenance is best conducted by a Clean Energy Council-licensed Electrician. You can find CEC-licenced Electricians here.


Solar PV racking systems play a critical role in maximizing energy production and ensuring the longevity of solar installations. By understanding the different types of racking systems, their benefits, and considerations, you can make an informed decision when selecting the appropriate system for your solar PV project. Consider factors such as energy output, site conditions, cost, design, and maintenance to choose a racking system that aligns with your goals and requirements.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the purpose of solar PV racking?

Solar PV racking systems provide the necessary framework to securely hold solar panels in place, ensuring optimal exposure to sunlight for efficient energy production.

2. Can I install a solar PV system on my roof?

In most cases, solar PV systems can be installed on roofs, provided they have sufficient structural integrity and receive adequate sunlight. However, it’s important to consult with professionals to assess your specific roof conditions.

3. What are the advantages of using a tracking racking system?

Tracking racking systems can significantly increase energy production by allowing solar panels to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day, optimizing the angle of incidence for maximum sunlight exposure.

4. How long does a solar PV racking system last?

The lifespan of a solar PV racking system can vary depending on the quality of materials, installation, and maintenance. Well-designed and properly maintained racking systems can last 20 years or more.

5. Is it necessary to hire professionals for racking system installation?

It is highly recommended to hire professionals experienced in solar installations for the proper design, engineering, and installation of solar PV racking systems. This ensures compliance with regulations, optimal performance, and system longevity.


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