Poor, maligned rooftop solar panels. In the early days, they were a proud symbol of eco-forwardness, a green badge of honor, despite not being the most attractive things to affix to your home. Now, as they become more and more ubiquitous (and affordable), they risk being turned into something homeowners would rather conceal. Like a blemish. An eyesore. Something you want to make more pretty.

Now that more people have ‘em, let’s make ours better looking.


In a recent New York Times business trend piece, the small but growing movement to transform — or at least disguise — these ugly but crucial energy ducklings into aesthetically conforming swans is explored.

Most notable are SRS Solé Power Tiles from SRS Energy. The company is working with California’s U.S. Tile to create tiles with embedded solar cells that mimic traditional tile roofing in Southern California and the Southeast. At a demo home in California (pictured below), a homeowner replaced terra cotta tiles on a portion of his roof — about 300-square feet — with Solé Tiles in about four hours. As a result, the homeowner’s roof will generate about 2,400 kilowatt-hours of juice a year and his roof isn’t festooned with bulky black squares that scream to neighbors and passersby, I have photovoltaics!

Another company, Tucson-based Global Solar Energy is making tiles — available in 13 colors — for rooftops and the sides of buildings that incorporate crystalline photovoltaic cells.

I find it a bit surprising that building-integrated photovoltaics are just starting to pick up stateside since agreeable outward appearances (read: vanity) seems to be just as an important value among homeowners as saving money, not to mention the planet. Go figure that Europe is ahead of the game where, according to research analyst Akhil Sivanandan, camouflaged, building-integrated photovoltaics make up 3 to 4 percent of the total solar market.

Homeowners, now that high-tech, dressed-up alternatives to big, bulky fixed rooftop and ground-mounted photovoltaic panels — panel-less panels, if you will — are becoming a reality, would you be more likely to invest in solar?

Via [New York Times]


Photo: SRS Energy

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Beautified solar panels built to blend in
Photovoltaic panels get an aesthetically pleasing redo in the form of roofing tiles and shingles with built-in solar cells.