An MIT startup, Sistine Solar, has developed its proprietary SolarSkin, a means to camouflage solar panels on a roof. The panels can be hidden under the skin to look like a home’s existing roofing, whether its Spanish tiles, an American flag, asphalt tiles or anything else.
It’s the latest effort to offer a more visually appealing solar panel system for a solar rooftop. Last year Tesla Founder Elon Musk unveiled its new integrated solar roofing products, which are designed to integrate into a roof’s roofing invisibly. While it’s a revolutionary product and one of the many attempts to develop a much more building integrated solar-powered rooftop product. But Sistine Solar’s approach uses standard panels—it just hides them.
“We think SolarSkin is going to catch on like wildfire,” Sistine Solar Co-Founder Senthil Balasubramanian told MIT News’ Rob Matheson. He founded the company with then fellow MIT student Ido Salama. “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.”
The SolarSkin is a layer covering a solar panel that’s imprinted with whatever design the owner wants it to have. The layer uses selective light filtration to show the image yet transmits light to the solar cells underneath so it doesn’t impact the solar panel’s efficiency, according to MIT. “The innovation lies in using a minute amount of light to reflect an image [and preserve] a high-efficiency solar module,” Balasubramanian explained.
“We’ve come up with a process where we color-correct the minimal information we have of the image on the panels to make that image appear, to the human eye, to be similar to the surrounding backdrop of roof shingles,” explained Anthony Occidentale, an MIT student and that’s working on product design for Sistine Solar.
The SolarSkin systems increases the cost of a solar array by about 10 percent. The company’s approach won a 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize and has won numerous grants to continue its work. Thanks to a DOE grant, the company also is testing its technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. There the technology is being tested for efficiency, durability and longevity.
Though still a startup, it’s turning heads. Already one of its pilot projects was featured on Designing Spaces.
More recently it installed its first residential SolarSkin panels last December on a house in Norwell, MA. That system has a 10-kilowatt solar panel array that matches the home’s cedar pattern. The company said already that 200 homes have reached out to the company, interested in its installations.Tweet