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Aesthetics and solar panels - from necessary evil to design element

Aesthetics and solar panels - from necessary evil to design element

Solar panels used to be considered ugly, and their installation a necessary evil in some cases. This has changed in recent years, with various improvements in aesthetics. The latest generation of solar panels, bifacial full black modules of different technologies, have improved optics to a level where a solar panel can be considered among the more stylish and elegant covers for modern roofs and façades, opening up a wide range of new application possibilities.

Industrial origins

First commercial applications of solar panels were in utility-scale and industrial installations. The main objective was to maximize production efficiency and little importance was given to looks. Solar cells, with their blue-ish color, were fixed on a panel with an aluminum frame.

Silver frame solar panel

Another factor that has been driving innovation in solar panel design is the panels’ durability, resistance to extreme weather conditions and sturdiness. This has led to experimenting with different materials in solar panel production.

The size of panels increased over time, to make larger scale installations easier and more efficient. Today conventional solar panels have a standard width of about 113 cm, and lengths varying from 172 cm to 238 cm.

Residential applications shift the focus on optics

As solar panels started to be installed on homes, aesthetics became more important. In many city centers, solar installations are barred by city councils on the basis of aesthetics, and clashing with heritage protection regulations.

Several developments to improve the looks of solar panels can be observed, one being the advent of solar tiles. These are photovoltaic components in the form of a tile, covered in thin-film solar PV. More famous examples are the Tesla Solar Roof tiles, but there are many producers of solar tiles that also come in various colors, trying to imitate normal roof tiles. Solar tiles are not widely available, expensive if compared to conventional solar panels, and much less efficient.

Solar roof

Another evolution has been the improvement of conventional panels. Starting with using black instead of silver frames and cell color changing to black as well, panels became less “ugly” than they used to be. Robinsun’s first Performance kit used Longi black-frame solar panels that were already looking pretty stylish. A further evolution came with the advent of “full black” panels, where also the spaces between the cells used black material. These panels optically were a big leap forward, and look extremely elegant on rooftops. The latest improvement is the advent of bifacial solar panels, that also excite in full black. The main change consists in using glass on both sides of the solar cell, giving a semi-transparente look to the panel. These bifacial solar panels have the additional advantage of producing up to 30% more, as they also generate power by capturing irradiation on the back side of the panel.

Full black solar panel

The biggest advantage of these improvements of conventional panels ist that they are mass produced, therefore extremely cheap and readily available, and offer the highest levels of efficiency. They combine the best economy of solar installations with extremely elegant aesthetics on a wide range of surfaces, that can now also include pergola roofs, growhouses, walls and fences, additional to conventional installations on roofs of all types and on terraces and gardens.

Conclusions

As technology advances and evolves, so do aesthetics. Today’s latest generations of solar panels can be considered an embellishment of most surfaces, and no longer an optical nuisance. At Robinsun, we fully embrace this new aesthetics of solar panels, and offer full black, bifacial, high-performance solar panels with our Robinsun Performance 800 kit. And our plug & play solar kit are extremely affordable (starting at just €449) with the longest production warranty available (30 years). This is a fine example of how the latest tech meets good looks and advantageous economics.

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