Solar panels are great, no doubt about it. They provide homeowners who choose to invest in an array with green electricity, tax breaks, an increased property value, and longterm savings. All good things. 😤
But, solar panels rarely add any aesthetic value to a home. Rooftop solar can be pretty conspicuous and in some people’s mind… ugly. For some homeowners, this is a major turnoff — which is fair. After dropping a hefty chunk of change on your dream house, it’s only natural to want it to be as beautiful as it has always been in your head. 💭 🏡
So, here are some unconventional solar panel designs that might appeal to homeowners who are turned off by the look of traditional residential solar systems.
#1: Solarskin 🌞
Solarskin is a relatively recent innovation by Sistine Solar, a Boston-based company founded by MIT graduate students in 2012. Their product first hit the market in 2016, and is now available to residential and commercial clients all across the United States.
Sistine Solar’s Solarskin technology is essentially the equivalent of a car wrap for solar panels. 🚗
Homeowners send in a photo of their roof along with the specs of their rooftop array from their installer, and Sistine Solar will send back a film printed to match the design of the homeowner’s roof that can be easily applied to the panels before their installation. 🙌
While most homeowners opt for Solarskins that are printed to camouflage their panels, this is not a requirement — the design is completely up to you. Want to put artwork on your solar panels? Go for it. Want Wildgrid’s logo on your roof? No one’s stopping you. 👀
While the addition of Solarskins increases the cost of a rooftop solar installation by about 10% and can marginally decrease the array’s overall efficiency, they are by far the most practical solution for any homeowner who wants solar panels, but doesn’t want to pay the aesthetic price.
#2: Smartflower 🌻
For homeowners who want to forgo rooftop solar altogether, and would prefer a show-stopping array akin to a piece of art, the Smartflower may be the way to go.
The Smartflower is a moveable, ground-mounted solar sculpture with several “smart” features that make it all the more impressive.
The system consists of 12 large petal-shaped solar panels that “bloom” in the morning and rotate to follow the sun throughout the day. At night, they automatically close and store themselves in the system’s compact base.
In addition to this sun-tracking technology, the Smartflower also has self-cleaning and inclement-weather-sensing capabilities. All of these features supposedly increase the system’s energy output and longterm functionality. ✅
While it may be visually appealing and technically novel, the Smartflower does have some pretty major drawbacks. Namely, it is more expensive than traditional ground mounted and rooftop systems, has a shorter warranty, and is unlikely to produce enough electricity annually to completely cover the average US household’s needs. 👎
But any proportion of clean energy produced is still beneficial to the planet, and for the artistically-minded homeowner, the flexibility and visual appeal that the Smartflower provides may be enough to outweigh any of the system’s cons.
#3: Dragonscale 🐉
Okay… technically Dragonscale solar panels aren’t available to the general public yet — they were specially designed for two Google campuses in California as a part of the company’s goal to be completely carbon-free by 2030.
But, the concept is an example of solar shingles, a renewable energy solution that is becoming more and more accessible as more homeowners seek visually pleasing rooftop solar designs. 💁♀️
Solar shingles have obvious aesthetic advantages over traditional rooftop systems.
They only come in black, and completely cover or replace a roof while taking on the appearance of standard shingles, which allows them to be seamlessly integrated into a home’s overall design. That’s not something that can be said about most blue, rack-mounted rooftop arrays.
Per usual, the aesthetic appeal of solar shingles comes with a hefty price tag and decreased efficiency. 😭
Traditional rooftop panels cost $15,000-$30,000 upfront, and can convert about 24% of incident sunlight into electricity. Solar shingles tend to cost between $36,000-$54,000 upfront, and because of the material they are made of, they are only able to convert 14% to 18% of incident sunlight into electricity.
But, ultimately, they'll get the job done, and they'll look pretty sleek while they do it. 😎
#4: Solar Cat 😺
Solar Cat is a playful and practical renewable energy project that was launched in 2019 by Wildgrid’s very own Krystal Persaud. The purr-worthy panel was made in association with Krystal’s other company, Grouphug, which primarily produces solar-powered phone chargers.
While Solar Cat solar panels are not currently available for purchase, Krystal’s intention behind the creation was to demonstrate that solar panels do not have to be expensive and industrial-looking; rather, solar panels can be fun and artistic focal points that are accessible to homeowners and renters alike. 👏
Art that incorporates solar is becoming more prevalent all across the world, and may soon become a viable option for homeowners who want to go solar in a beautiful way.
#5: Solar Hat 🎩
Still not sure about going solar? Why not stick a solar panel on your body’s roof (your head…) and see how you like it.
Bonus points: you can charge your phone on the go!