GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted
Green Building News

Solar Panels That Don’t Look Like Solar Panels

SolarSkin panels mimic the look of grass, tile, wood shingles — even Elvis

These SolarSkin panels look a little bit like grass in this rendering distributed by Sistine Solar.
Image Credit: Sistine Solar

A technology startup has developed a way to give crystalline silicon solar panels the look of grass, tile, wood shakes or just about anything else the buyer wants.

Sistine Solar promises to “elegantly marry form and function” and speed the adoption of solar energy by making solar panels beautiful to look at.

SolarSkin panels are the brainchild of Senthil Balasubramanian and Ido Salama. The business partners met as graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to a story posted on the Sistine Solar website, they cooked up the idea of panels whose appearance could be customized at a campus watering hole called the Muddy Charles.

In an email, Salama said the company is accepting orders for the panels and quoting prices on jobs in Massachusetts, New York, and California. Installations are scheduled for the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.

Salama said technology developed by Sistine Solar “allows us to recreate and imprint graphics into a solar panel whereby a majority of the light gets transmitted and the rest that gets reflected recreates the original image.”

The 65-inch by 40-inch panels use standard crystalline silicon technology to generate electricity. Panels are 15% to 17% efficient, and have a rated capacity of 250 watts each.

“We found that people really like to customize their home,” Salama says on a video posted at the website. “Up until now, though, solar panels have been stuck in the last century. Much like a 1915 Ford Model T, you can get any color, as long as it’s black.”

SolarSkin panels can be made to look like whatever roofing material has been used on a house. If homeowners want the solar array to look like a portrait of Elvis, that’s possible, too.

The company wouldn’t discuss costs. An article posted at Yahoo, however, said that the panels would be “slightly” more expensive than typical panels on the market.

The company won the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize in renewable energy and last year won a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.


  1. AlanB4 | | #1

    This may seem superfluous
    But i think its a great idea, people are huge on style, so making panels more sexy gives another reason to go solar.

  2. Expert Member

    You make a good point. Like any other element of a house that makes up its architecture, beauty is important. It's a lesson many of the early solar house builds neglected in their solely engineering-based approaches to their detriment. Most people don't like to live in an ugly house.

  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    Sell naming rights to your roof?
    I can see a downside. We'll be looking at "Drink Pepsi" or "Trump 2016" on people's roofs.

    Putting black pv panels on the typical roof isn't any less attractive than a shingled roof.

  4. bigrig | | #4

    HOA acceptance
    I think the most important aspect of this is to help convince HOA and other "neighborhood" NIMBY-type organizations to allow solar. With the death of the solar shingle this may be the only recourse for homeowners in some areas to go solar.

  5. olivermasson99 | | #5

    Whats the purpose of looking like grass, in the end every body knows they are solar panels. So, why spend extra money on hiding something can you can't hide. Its better to invest in Mono Crystalline Solar Panels to get more outcome than some solar panels that do not look like a solar panel. See for Efficient Solar Panels.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6


      Roofing is strange that way. Architectural shingles look like they do not for any practical reason, but rather in an (unsuccessful) attempt to look like wood shakes. I wonder what roofs would look like if the materials were designed for solely pragmatic reasons?

Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |