Jul 232013

colored solar panels

I will admit to still being new to the whole universe of home solar energy, but I’m confused by what is apparently one of the more common obstacles to solar adoption: The panels themselves are eyesores.

This to me is such a befuddling argument — how often do you currently look at your own roof? Of course, maybe if you’re worried about the neighbors complaining, that’s a different story — but then that also seems like a silly thing to base your energy-purchasing decisions on.

However, if the unsightliness of current solar systems is truly an obstacle to adoption, it may be a short-lived one: Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, Germany, are working on design and manufacturing techniques that could broaden the range of color options available to solar buyers (the range currently runs from roughly black to blue-gray).

Using transparent, nano-scale materials as an outer layer on solar cells not only allows the Fraunhofer team to capture more light — project manager Kevin FŸchsel estimates about 20 percent efficiency for panels made from these cells — it also allows for new colors by changing the thickness of that outer layer, which changes how much light gets refracted by the cells.

If the research project pans out, FŸchsel and his team expect the new shades of solar to help engineers and architects more design flexibility. The photo above is a rendering of how the Frauhofer Institute for Applied Optics could look with a facade constructed of the new solar panels.

And if the research does pan out and solar systems can come in almost all shades of the rainbow, hopefully it’ll help skirt the strange objection of “what would the neighbors think?”

Article By: Matthew Wheeland

Photo courtesy of The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics.

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