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MIT startup offers camouflage solar panels that will match any roof

Sistine Solar wants to help sustainability-minded homeowners who also care about aesthetics

Sistine Solar

No one would argue for the aesthetic beauty of the average solar panel—the dark, gridded rectangles blend into rooftops about as well as a penguin at a peacock party. But one MIT-born startup is hoping to change all that.

Sistine Solar creates panel systems that can be customized to visually match a shingled rooftop, an ad, or any other image you can imagine. The secret is a proprietary SolarSkin embedded in the panel that reflects back an image while still letting light through to the photovoltaic cells below. Sistine Solar’s customization currently tacks on an additional 10 percent to the cost of a solar panel system, but the company is betting that homeowners will still prefer the camouflaged panels.

Their first residential installation just wrapped in December, and already Sistine Solar has had hundreds of inquiries—particularly in Massachusetts and California.

“We think SolarSkin is going to catch on like wildfire,” said co-founder Senthil Balasubramanian in an interview with MIT. “There is a tremendous desire by homeowners to cut utility bills, and solar is finding reception with them—and homeowners care a lot about aesthetics.”

But they’re certainly not the only ones betting on the “aesthetic solar” trend. Last October, electric car company Tesla revealed it’s creating a line of rooftop solar tiles made from four different types of glass panels, ranging from a Tuscan glass tile to a textured glass tile. Another startup, the Italian company Dyaqua, has started manufacturing photovoltaic roof tiles that appear indistinguishable from terra cotta, wood, and stone. Sistine Solar’s apparent advantage among these companies is that you can install the camouflaged panels without needing to entirely re-roof your home.

Via: MIT News