Sunday 27 May 2012

The Best Looking Solar Panels You’ve Never Seen

Perfect Symmetry?
If you are interested in having solar PV (electric) panels, but are discouraged by the effect the installation will have on how your home looks you are not alone. 

The headlong rush to get solar electric systems installed before cuts to the wildly popular government incentive scheme, the Feed-in-Tariff, created a focus on financial returns as the only goal.  A number of Crimes Against Architecture may have been perpetrated.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, its up to you.  Consider the gallery below.

Exhibit A

Have these installations knocked more off the value of the property than they will ever make in Feed in Tariff profits?  Am I being too harsh?  Let me know what you think - post a comment below.

Got any any better (worse!) photos of solar installations? Send them to me at this email address: and I’ll enhance the gallery. Credit given to contributors.

[UPDATE: Thanks to all who have sent photos - I have created an album on Flicker which you can see here]
An arbitrary Feed-In-Tariff banding structure has encouraged people to fit the maximum number of panels possible up to the 4kWp threshold at which the tariff reduces, sometimes with little thought for aesthetics.

Standardised solar installation kits offering a fixed number of of panel numbers further limits the chance of creating a sensitive roof layout.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. There are alternatives available to those who want to reduce their energy use while protecting the appeal of their property.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way - The Best Solar Panels You’ve Never Seen

The default installation of solar pv is a rack-mounted checkerboard of solar panels mounted above the roof covering.  Due to their ubiquity many people think this is the only option available.
Fortunately for those who want a more harmonious-looking  installation, alternatives  do exist.  So-called integrated solar panels that replace tiles or slates in the roof covering, offering a much neater, low-profile installation.  These can be either tile-format panels where small panels fit into the tiles of the roof, or rectangular panels with a weathertight interface between panels and tiles.
Roof integrated solar panels (left) and solar tiles (right)

Some properties with smaller or awkward roof areas might be better served with a solar heating system. This requires far less roof area than it's electric counterpart, and can also be installed as a roof integrated system.  The forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentive could make this type of solar more popular, and systems installed now will qualify for the incentive once it starts as if installed on the first day of the scheme.

For more examples of roof-integrated solar panels check out the Viridian Solar Gallery.