We all know that solar panels are a good thing, but few of us would regard them as “pretty.” Could this be the reason why the adoption of solar energy still needs a boost? After all, solar energy has become cheap, but fewer than one percent of US homeowners have gone solar. Perhaps custom solar panel design is the answer.
How can solar energy be made all-but-irresistible to homeowners? This is the problem that Sistine, an organization founded at the MIT Sloan School of Management, hopes to address with its new technology.
SolarSkin Makes Custom Solar Panel Design Simple
The concept is simple: if people are hesitant about the aesthetics of solar panels, why not make them so that they can either blend in or become an attractive feature? SolarSkin allows homeowners to have their solar panels imprinted with an image of their choice. It can be an artwork, a logo, or even an image of the roofing materials the panels cover. The invention can turn your roof into something that resembles a grassy lawn, or you can flaunt your national flag as a statement of patriotism. The only limit is imagination.
How much are Cost and Solar Cell Efficiency Affected?
Custom solar panel design sounds expensive, but Sistine has targeted its SolarSkin option to match ordinary people’s budgets. Getting a one-of-a-kind solar panel costs just ten percent more than buying regular ones. That doesn’t significantly reduce the money-saving potential of the solar system. According to Sistine, homeowners will still stand a chance of saving over $30,000 during the lifespan of their solar installations.
The image itself is embedded into the solar panel and doesn’t limit its power generating potential; it just makes the panels more aesthetically pleasing, reflecting images while still allowing maximum light penetration.
Are Solar Panel Aesthetics Really Important?
The Sistine start-up, which won the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize, says that aesthetics could well be one of the reasons so few people have made the change to solar energy. Its founders, classmates at MIT, decided to capture people’s imaginations and bring about emotional engagement. By turning solar panels into either art or camouflage, the concept either reduces the visual impact of the panels or turns them into an impactful statement by itself.
The team began by embedding solar panels into 3D objects of any shape but soon realized that the idea wasn’t sufficiently scalable to be feasible for large-scale adoption. Thus, the obvious solution was to take the standard solar panel and reinvent it as art.
The start-up envisions 100 percent uptake of solar energy, and its team believes that by addressing aesthetics with its custom solar panel design, it’s contributing to that vision. Already, over 200 Massachusetts and California homeowners have placed their orders. So far, designs that blend in with existing roofing materials are proving the most popular.
The concept of embedding business logos into solar panels will make them multi-functional. Businesses can now use solar panels instead of regular signage. The ideas keep flowing. What about producing solar panels that project changing images for advertising? What if authorities used camouflaged solar panels to power streetlights? The possibilities, it seems, are endless.
Is custom solar panel design the wave of the future? With so many possible applications, it seems that Sistine’s novel concept is on the road to success.