A recent press release from Qsolar describes a new photovoltaics product line: Kristal Rainbow, a series of photovoltaic panels that come in blue, red, purple, green, grey/green and grey/brown. The Building-integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) product is designed for buildings and houses that incorporate photovoltaics into the design of the structure, rather than using them as “bolt-on” devices that can detract from an attractive design.
Presently there are only a few BIPV products on the market, and most of them aren’t doing brisk sales because of higher costs—and solar cell costs are already high enough to keep most consumers and builders out of the market. But as prices come down, more consumers and builders are realizing that attractive design does not have to exclude solar, nor does solar automatically ruin an attractive design with ugly scaffolding and clashing surfaces.
This is a sign that solar is finally coming into real mainstream use: Previously, cost, efficiency and practicality were the only factors involved in choosing and using solar panels; now, costs are dropping, efficiency is increasing, and practicality is a given, so aesthetics are beginning to play a larger part in selection. And as aesthetics improve across one sector of alternative energy, so it should improve in other areas. All of this increased aesthetic will in turn draw more people into using alternative energy products that they can show off to neighbors (when being more green than your neighbors, or protecting the planet, just isn’t good enough).
Many products and product lines go through the same evolution, starting as ugly-but-functional, improving modestly over time, then experiencing a sales resurgence when attractive design and aesthetics are finally integrated into the product.
It may not be ideal to assume that efficient energy systems must be pretty to be sold; but the most important thing in this case is that are are sold, to decrease our dependence on dirty and politically-problematic energy sources. If colored solar panels turn out to be the home fashion accessory of the future… so be it.