Solar panel alternatives: What are your options?

Solar panels in a field

You’ve looked into rooftop solar panels and realized your home doesn’t quite fit the bill. Now what? Whether your roof is too fragile for solar, experiences excessive tree shade, or you belong to a homeowners association that restricts solar panel installations, there are cost-cutting solar options for just about every situation. We’ll break down the top alternatives to rooftop solar panels – community solar, ground-mounted solar, solar sheds, and solar shingles. 

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Key takeaways

  • Community solar is one of the best ways to enjoy the benefits of solar without putting solar equipment on your property, and it's an especially good option for renters.

  • If you have a structure like a shed or ground space on your property, you can install solar panels on either location.

Between community solar, solar shingles, ground-mounted solar panels, and solar sheds or carports, there are several alternatives that let you benefit from solar without installing a rooftop system.

Community solar

If you can't install solar panels anywhere on your property, don't own your home, or you simply don’t want solar panels on your roof, community solar is a way to support solar energy without installing anything on your property.

Community solar farms are large-scale solar arrays that support the local utility grid. Customers of the cooperating utility are eligible to subscribe to the solar farm in exchange for utility bill credits, which typically save an average of 5-20% on annual electricity costs. 

Community solar projects are usually either subscription- or ownership-based, but your options depend on where you live. If you subscribe, you'll pay a monthly fee in exchange for a portion of the solar electricity from the community solar array. If you own a share, you pay upfront (like buying a rooftop system) and receive the solar electricity from your share for the system's lifetime.

Check out our article on the pros and cons of community solar to learn if roofless solar option is right for you.

Ground-mounted solar systems

Even if you don't have any roof space that can host a solar energy system, you may still have options for home solar. Ground-mounted solar panels offer all of the benefits of a rooftop system, plus a few additional advantages. In many cases, a ground mount system will produce more electricity than rooftop solar because it can be adjusted to capture more sunlight throughout the year as the sun's position changes in the sky. Additionally, while the size of your roof will restrict a rooftop solar system, a ground-mounted system can be sized to meet your exact needs.

If your homeowner's association has rules against solar panels for aesthetic reasons, or if you live in a historic neighborhood, ground-mount solar panels offer a solution. In most cases, they don't violate aesthetic regulations as long as you install them so they aren’t seen from the street.

Solar shingles

Like solar panels, solar shingles are an innovative solar technology that can help you save on your energy bills. These small panels look very similar to conventional shingles – but they convert solar energy into electricity. This option is helpful for those who want to avoid the aesthetic concerns of installing solar panels, but it’s important to note that solar shingles are not as effective as traditional solar panels, and they’re typically more expensive upfront.

Solar sheds and carports

If you can’t install panels on your roof, you may be able to build a solar energy system on another building on your property. Sheds, garages, greenhouses, and carports can all offer suitable locations for solar installations.

Solar carports and solar sheds generate zero-emissions electricity and provide shade, so you could even power an electric vehicle with your garage roof solar panels. As a bonus, both these options can be installed to capture sunlight at the perfect angle to maximize solar energy production.

Each rooftop solar alternative offers distinct advantages, and some cost more than others. Regardless of which type of installation you choose, we always recommend comparing all your options before making your final decision.

If you're interested in shared solar, use the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace to find and compare options available near you. For carports, ground mount solar, and other rooftop solar alternatives at your property, you can receive quotes from qualified solar installers in your area by joining the EnergySage Marketplace – specify what type of installation you're looking for when you sign up.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
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  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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