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Coloured solar panels - worth it?

Posted by Helena Ripley on 24 July 2015 at 1:50 pm

Over the last six months I have done a fair amount of research into photovoltaic solar panels. So I was surprised to discover recently that solar cells can be made in different colours. You might know all about this, but I had somehow missed the coloured solar developments!

Coloured Rooftop Solar Panels

The usual rooftop polycrystalline solar panels can now be produced in a variety of colours. If you are adventurous you might be interested in purple, gold or pink. There are some more subdued tones available too – brown, red and grey. But why would you want coloured solar panels?

Apart from making you stand out from the crowd these coloured panels do have a practical use – blending in. One of the objections to rooftop PV is the visual effect. Black solar panels on the red roof of a listed property would stand out. So there is now the option of having red panels instead. A solar farm in a field could be visible for miles, but if the panels were green they wouldn’t be so obvious. 

Where have they been used?

There are various examples of houses in the US and Europe that have had coloured solar panels installed. Generally this is because the house has a red roof and red solar panels are much less conspicuous. Italy, in particular, has many red rooves so these panels have been used there. Coloured solar panels have also been used in the UK. Recently a house on the site of a converted oast house in Sussex had red solar panels installed as they blended in to the red roof. There do not appear to be any examples of green coloured solar panels being installed in an open area as yet, but it’s surely only a question of time 

Does colour change the efficiency of the panel? This is the technical bit.

A key question is: does having panels a different colour than the traditional blue/black affect the efficiency? First, a quick reminder of how solar panel efficiency works (if you know this, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph). Efficiency in a solar panel refers to the amount of sunlight that hits the panel and is converted into electricity. This means that a more efficient panel can produce the same amount of electricity from a smaller area. A 250W panel with 20% efficiency will be smaller than a 250W panel with 15% efficiency. So with more efficient panels you can more electricity from the same size roof. 

Coloured solar PV can be slightly less efficient than standard panels. However, this varies according to the colour of the panel: the darker the colour the more efficient the panel will be. Green or grey coloured panels are more efficient than those in shades of red. This is because they reflect less light overall and so are better at absorbing solar energy. Coloured solar panels can produce 230W to 245W of energy; a standard panel of the same size can generate up to 265W. So if you do need coloured solar panels the difference in efficiency isn’t too large, but you may want to maximise the use of your roof space.

Cost of coloured solar panels

It does cost a quite bit more to have coloured panels rather than the standard ones, particularly if you are going for multi-toned panels. As an indication of price, a standard individual polycrystalline solar panel could cost in the region of £130 to £200, whereas a solar panel with a single colour will cost about £280 and if you opt for a marbled solar panel the cost increases to over £360. But, if you are in a conservation area and this is the only way that you would be allowed to have solar panels, or if you want to make a bold statement with a bright green rooftop, then the additional cost is well worth it. 

Photo credit: BISOL Group

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

4Q4

4Q4Comment left on: 24 July 2015 at 2:19 pm

Great article, Just a thought though! How long do you think it will be before we see interior designers selling colour coordinated solar panels?

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