They can match all kinds of rooftops or have business logos, advertisements and even a countryâ€™s flag imprinted on them
The Boston-based start-up Sistine Solar has developed solar panels that can fit the style of the houses they are mounted on. Named SolarSkin and having a patent-pending technology, these panels are of the same size as conventional ones, yet allow any image to be imprinted onto them in order to look exactly like your roof. There are even patterns that mimic composition shingle, slate, clay tiles and others in a variety of colors.
The two co-founders Senthil Balasubramanian and Ido Salama, conceived the idea while studying at MIT, and then did extensive research, finding that for most homeowners, panelâ€™s aesthetics matter. They also took into account a research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab which showed that on average, a house with a 3kW solar system commands a $17,000 higher selling price than a comparable house without one. According to Sistine Solar, this fact alone makes the initial cost of the system (and its installation) worth it, while more than $30,000 is expected to be saved over its lifetime. The combination of these factors convinced the company that homeowners would prefer their camouflaged panels, even though they cost 10% more than typical photovoltaics.
Sistine Solar ran a pilot project last summer, with the panels being blended into with the shingle roof of a log cabin in Hubbardston, Massachusetts. The first residential installation took place in December, a 10-kW system that matched a cedar pattern on a house in Norwell, Massachusetts. Since then, the company has had hundreds of inquiriesâ€”particularly in Massachusetts and California where solar is in high demand.
These solar panels produce 240 watts each and currently, Sistine Solar is testing SolarSkin for efficiency, durability, and longevity at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory under a DOE grant.