Pigs are considered some of natures ugliest and dirtiest animals (although I’d have to go with the Komondor instead). No matter the shape, size or vantage point of the pig, it’s difficult to make it look appealing. You can even try lipstick… but when it comes down to it a pig… is a pig.
The same is true among solar products as they are large, heavy and frankly…just plain ugly. In fact, this is a huge issue for the average consumer. No one wants an eye-soar on top of their roof. The New York Times recently covered this topic.
Developers have tried to design products to blend in with the roof and appear unnoticeable, but that is not solving the real problem… they are ugly to begin with. How about making solar look cool by itself… like taking a cassette player and replacing it with an iPod. People would actually would want that new edition to their house or small business because it looks stylish.. oh and by the way, it also saves you a ton on your electricity bill.
Elegant Focus participated in a startup incubator at MIT this past spring as part of Venture Well East funded by NCIIA and Microsoft. At this incubator I was fortunate to meet Sam Cothran, CEO of SolarIvy, who is trying to make solar design into an art.
Sam has developed a solar product that makes solar cells look like ivy. The “SolarIvy” uses highly efficient Konarka solar cells and can be attached to the side of a building. Sure, it doesn’t produce as much output as other systems, but it looks cool. Cool enough to be featured in New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Anyways, for solar to become cheaper it needs to hit the mass market and that transition would happen much faster if the products were aesthetically pleasing.