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Learn About Solar  |  Solar 101  |  Types of solar installations

Types of solar installations

Last updated 3/24/2023

Solar is a very versatile technology. You can put solar panels nearly anywhere, from on a roof to a canopy above a parking lot, and from in a field to even floating in the middle of a lake or pond. In order to differentiate between the different types of solar panel systems that are possible, we generally put solar into four main categories: residential, commercial & industrial, community solar, and utility-scale. Each of these different types of solar panel installations use the same basic technology; they primarily differ in terms of size, location, price and purpose. 

Residential solar

Homeowners nearly anywhere can benefit from a solar panel installation on their property. In most cases, residential solar panel systems are rooftop installations on stand-alone, single-family homes, though it is possible to have ground-mounted, carport, or pergola installations at your home as well. Residential solar panel systems send the electricity they produce directly to your home, and send any excess back to the grid to offset your electricity bill via net metering.

To learn more about solar installations for homes, click here.

residential solar panels

Commercial and industrial solar

Have you ever been in a window seat on an airplane looking at all of the empty, flat roof spaces on large buildings? (No? That’s just us? Cool.) Turns out these buildings, which are typically commercial or industrial businesses, are perfect for solar. Commercial and industrial solar panel installations cover any type of solar installed on a business, from small and medium businesses to industrial factories, with installations anywhere from rooftops to parking lot canopies at shopping centers to wide open fields on a business’s property. Solar is a great option for businesses throughout the country, and it can even turn into a source of revenue for many companies.

To learn more about solar for businesses, click here.

commercial solar panels

Utility-scale solar

Your electrical utility relies on large power plants to provide the electricity that flows out of the outlets in your home and business. These power plants have typically been powered by fossil fuels or nuclear energy; however, utilities are increasingly relying on large scale development of renewable resources–primarily solar and wind–to provide electricity. Utility-scale solar panel installations are massive–often between 500- and 30,000-times larger than a residential solar installation–and sell their electricity directly to utilities, meaning they can effectively provide power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. 

To learn more about utility-scale solar panel installations, click here.

utility scale solar panels

Community solar 

Community solar plays a unique role in making solar power directly accessible to people who can’t put solar panels where they live or work: instead of being installed on site at your home or business, community solar is a large-scale solar farm installed in your area that you can then subscribe to in order to purchase and benefit from the solar power generated at the installation. 

community solar panels

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