Designer Solar Panels: A Rare Combination Of Aesthetics And Performance

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Recruitment of an artist in a photovoltaic manufacturing company from MIT graduates should not come as a surprise when every 8 men out of 10 care only about aesthetics and aesthetics. For example, Dave Wilms speaks about attending a council meeting in a city where they restricted the installation of solar panels on the front side of the roofs as they seemed like an ugly patch to urban beauty. The restriction was later removed when Dave explained that if the panels were on the back side of the roofs they wouldn’t face the sun and complete investment could go to waste. It wasn’t the first town or city to have taken one such decision. So what should be done to avoid such circumstances?

The solution came from two MIT pass outs one of whom is a mechanical engineering student with a strong background in rapid prototyping along with being a PHD with specialization in PV efficiency and optics, the other one is a known international artist from Italy. The team has designed a patent-pending technology that makes customized patterns fit for passing lights. The best thing about these designs is that these can be attached with PV panels allowing them to fuse with their surroundings. Sistine, the company, likes to call this product as SolarSkin.

An interesting question that rises here is that why out of all colors the PV panels only emit the dark shades? The reason is that every object under the sun absorbs almost all colors from the sun’s spectrum except for one. The one that it rejects is reflected as its color. For example, the tree leaves, these absorb all colors from the VIBGYOR except for the fourth one “G”. The solar panels appear black because these absorb the complete spectrum of sunlight. A black coating over these allow them to absorb as much light as possible and generate maximum power and energy.

It is not the first time that someone has come up with a solution for dark solar panels, however, the previous substitutes lagged behind the original one in terms of performance. They would reject around 90 per cent of energy and would accept only 10 per cent of light. Salama, one of the co-founders of Sistine, likes to explain the engineering of this project as “Our panels use mono-crystalline technology. Adding any color apart from blue/black of silicon will be course led to a less than optimal light capture. Our technology is novel in that we’ve developed a way to re-create the images, designs, and patterns using minimal color and allowing a majority of light to pass through the panel. We trade-off a tiny bit of efficiency for the sake of mind blowing aesthetics..the result is panels that are 15-17% efficient and that homeowners absolutely love.”

Sistine Solar is a great initiative to meet customer’s needs and requirements. The team here analyzes the site completely which helps them in designing panels that fit the size and surroundings of the panels. Once the engineering is complete the artistic part begins. They create a design that has pattern, color, or specific image that the customer asks for.