Maximizing Solar Potential with Metal Structures

27 June 2024Structural design, Sustainability3D Model, aesthetics, alternative, Analysis, Budget, efficiency, Electrical, FEA/FEM, flexibility, installation, quality, renewable energy, solar, solar panels, standards, structural engineering, Structure



In the realm of renewable energy, solar power has become a beacon of sustainability. The effectiveness of solar panel systems hinges greatly on their support structures. Metal structures serve as the sturdy foundation, ensuring stability, durability and optimal positioning for energy capture. Understanding the structural fundamentals in design – types, benefits, installation considerations, and the critical role of accurate calculations – helps unlock the full potential of solar energy for a more sustainable future.

Importance of Solar Panel Structures

The metal structure for solar panels plays a crucial role in ensuring the stability, durability and efficiency of a solar panel system. Serving as the foundation supporting the panels, the structure positions them to optimally capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. If the structure isn’t sturdy and well designed, the panels may be prone to damage from factors like wind, snow or earthquakes.

solar panels on steep roof surrounded by snow

Types of Metal Structures for Solar Panels

There are several types of metal structures designed to accommodate different installations:

  • Roof

These structures are commonly used for residential and commercial buildings with suitable roof space. They are typically attached directly to the roof using special mounting brackets or rails, enabling easy installation without compromising the integrity of the roof.

tan apartment building with balcony and windows, roof holding a metal A-frame covered with solar panels

Solar panels on roof

  • Pergola

Providing both support for solar panels and shade, pergola structures are ideal for outdoor spaces such as in gardens or on patios. These freestanding structures can be customized to fit a variety of panel configurations, while enhancing the aesthetics of their surroundings.

  • Facade

Mounted directly onto building facades, these structures allow for vertical installation of solar panels. They are particularly useful in urban areas where rooftop space may be limited or unavailable, offering an alternative solution for solar power generation.

solar panel residential building facade in the sunlight with six equally spaced windows with venetian blinds in differing stages of being open

Solar panel building facade

  • Veranda, Garden, Balcony

Designed specifically for mounting solar panels on verandas, in gardens or on balconies, these structures allow homeowners to utilize available outdoor spaces for solar power generation. They are usually lightweight and easy to install, making them suitable for residential applications.

  • Ground Mounts

Ground mounted structures are installed as either fixed or adjustable tilt-angle systems. They are commonly used in open fields, commercial solar farms and areas with ample available land. Ground mounted systems offer flexibility in panel orientation and angle of tilt to maximize sunlight exposure throughout the day.

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an eighty-foot length of a solar structure ground mount with a fenced vineyard growing underneath

Solar structure ground mounted over a vineyard

Criteria for Choosing a Solar Panel Structure

When selecting a solar panel structure, consider the following factors:

1. Load-Bearing Capacity: Be sure the structure can support the weight of the solar panels, as well as withstand environmental loads such as wind and snow.

2. Material Quality: Choose high quality materials such as aluminum or galvanized steel that are resistant to corrosion and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

3. Installation Flexibility: Select a structure that offers flexibility in installation, allowing for easy adjustment and alignment of the panels to maximize sunlight exposure.

4. Aesthetics: Consider the visual impact of the structure, especially for residential installations. Opt for designs that complement the architecture of the building or blend seamlessly with the surroundings.

5. Cost Effectiveness: The overall cost of the structure will include installation and maintenance expenses, so be sure it aligns with your budget and long-term investment goals.

solar panels forming a twelve feet wide and three hundred feet long shade structure over a parking lot full of cars

Solar panel shade structure in parking lot

Calculations for Solar Panel Structures

Calculations for metal structures for solar panels will determine the optimal design and configuration to ensure structural integrity and efficiency. These calculations involve:

1. Load Analysis: The structural loads imposed by the solar panels are assessed, including dead loads (weight of the panels and mounting system) and live loads (wind, snow and seismic forces).

2. Structural Design: The metal structure is designed to withstand the calculated loads while maintaining stability and durability over the lifespan of the solar panel system.

3. Tilt Angle Optimization: Calculation of the optimal tilt angle for the panels is based on factors such as geographical location, seasonality and energy production requirements.

solar panels mounted on stands in field, tall city buildings in background, manufacturing construction

Specialized Calculations for Design of Metal Structures

The calculations for the design of metal structures for solar panels can be performed using specialized engineering software like GRAITEC Advance Design. Specialized software tools enable accurate modeling, analysis and optimization of solar panel installations based on site specific parameters and design requirements. Like Advance Design, they may also feature a modern generator for photovoltaic structures to help the engineer generate the model more easily and efficiently.

Consulting with a structural engineer or solar energy professional can ensure that the calculations are conducted effectively and in compliance with relevant building codes and standards.


Choosing the right metal structure for a solar panel installation is essential for maximizing solar potential for energy production, ensuring durability and optimizing the return on investment. By considering the different types of structures available, evaluating key criteria and performing accurate calculations, the result will be a reliable, efficient solar power system that meets energy needs for years to come.

Structural engineers: Click here to take advantage of the exclusive Advance Design WELCOME OFFER!

Take the first step today to make your projects easier, safer and more cost effective with GRAITEC Advance Design.  


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