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Pitch and Rooftop Mounting Solar Power in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

In designing a rooftop solar energy mounting system, Southern Light Solar takes every important factor into account. For our region, this includes defining the best solar panel tilt angle to get the best energy generation results. When that optimum angle cannot be met, we can predict the small efficiency changes across the four seasons.

Modern solar panel and solar power inverter designs help to minimize this condition, and in almost every case the cost and appearance of forcing a solar panel tilt different from roof pitch make it not a good idea.

For Massachusetts and Rhode Island the midday summer sun appears to be mostly overhead. A perfect solar panel tilt might be close to 70 degrees, making it appear nearly flat. In the dead of winter, the sun is still bright, but the best angle might be closer to 30 degrees as the sun drops lower in the sky.

Even the best fixed mounted design will be a compromise taking these optimum solar panel tilts into account. Conforming to the existing roof pitch means the best compromise angle may not be met. However, the efficiency impacts are small enough that often Southern Light Solar can design in and additional solar panel or two to compensate and meet solar power production targets.

Different architectural styles such as a hip roof, gable roof, gambrel roof, etc., usually offer their own roof pitch for aesthetic purposes.

See some common pitched rooftop solar mounting options:

Roof Pitch and Design Can Impact Solar Energy Systems

Two of the most critical factors in effective rooftop solar energy design are the orientation of the available mounting surfaces and the architectural roof design, in particular roof pitch. Pitch and slope both refer to the angle of elevation of a roof from the flat or horizontal, and it is generally stated as a ratio. The larger the ratio, the steeper the angle or pitch of the roof. Slope generally refers to a single surface, while pitch refers to the overall dimensions across the full roof span.

This angle impacts a solar energy system design installation in two ways:

  • A higher roof pitch requires more crew security during the installation phase;
  • Solar panels perform best when directly facing the sun at any time. There is an optimum solar panel angle or tilt for fixed mounted solar panels. This tilt will generate the best results across the four seasons, as the sun’s angle in the sky changes. When installing a system on a pitched roof, the system and racking will typically follow the roof pitch.

Solar Tracking System – The Perfect Pitch Solution

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Modern solar tracking systems were designed almost exclusively to optimize solar power production over 365 days a year. While it is not conducive to rooftop mounting, a ground-mounted solar tracker may be a good alternative where the combination of roof pitch, building orientation, and shading make rooftop mounting ineffective.