A technology startup has developed a way to give crystalline silicon solar panels the look of grass, tile, wood shakes or just about anything else the buyer wants.
promises to “elegantly marry form and function” and speed the adoption of solar energy by making solar panels beautiful to look at.
SolarSkin panels are the brainchild of Senthil Balasubramanian and Ido Salama. The business partners met as graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to a story posted on the Sistine Solar website, they cooked up the idea of panels whose appearance could be customized at a campus watering hole called the Muddy Charles.
In an email, Salama said the company is accepting orders for the panels and quoting prices on jobs in Massachusetts, New York, and California. Installations are scheduled for the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.
Salama said technology developed by Sistine Solar “allows us to recreate and imprint graphics into a solar panel whereby a majority of the light gets transmitted and the rest that gets reflected recreates the original image.”
The 65-inch by 40-inch panels use standard crystalline silicon technology to generate electricity. Panels are 15% to 17% efficient, and have a rated capacity of 250 watts each.
“We found that people really like to customize their home,” Salama says on a video posted at the website. “Up until now, though, solar panels have been stuck in the last century. Much like a 1915 Ford Model T, you can get any color, as long as it’s black.”
SolarSkin panels can be made to look like whatever roofing material has been used on a house. If homeowners want the solar array to look like a portrait of Elvis, that’s possible, too.
The company wouldn’t discuss costs. , however, said that the panels would be “slightly” more expensive than typical panels on the market.
The company won the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize in renewable energy and last year from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.