Now, there’s a question.
Like any aesthetics, it all down to a matter of taste as ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.
That said, there have been reams and reams of papers published on this subject, with studies across different countries, cultures and demographics.
From NIMBYs in rural Britain complaining about ‘blots on the landscape’, to the proliferation of solar farms in China and India, the ‘Are solar panels ugly’ debate has been raging for years.
So, let’s add to that debate and take a look at what people are saying about solar panels.
Why is opinion so divided on solar panels?
If there is one thing we know about modern society, it’s the media and politicians can start a fight in an empty room.
Causing division of any kind gets a debate going – and not always for the better of society.
Renewable energy is a hot topic on its own, and that certainly informs the opinions people have on the aesthetics of solar panels.
In fact, you can throw everything from Wind farms to biofuel power stations into that debate as people decry all things renewable.
Seems strange to us as we’d rather see panels on roofs, or wind turbines gracefully spinning, than power stations belching smoke and pollutants into the air.
All the above is, of course, merely personal opinion, so let’s see what the experts say.
Studying opinions on renewable energy
In this section, we’ll reference a few in-depth studies from around the world that focus on people’s attitudes to solar panels and how they look.
One thing we have noticed, no matter what part of the world the studies have been done, is that younger people are all for solar panels, while older generations are more sceptical, but there is a definite move towards renewable energy in this demographic.
Climate Xchange, Scotland have an in-depth study into the public perception of all renewables that shows attitudes are shifting.
|Renewable energy source
|Proportion supporting its use
|Proportion opposing its use
Data from: Department of Energy & Climate Change (2012). Public Attitudes Tracker – Wave 1. London, Department of Energy and Climate Change.
One of the areas this study focused on was the connection between knowledge and acceptance.
The more people knew about renewables, and their impact on the energy market, the more accepting they were of solar panels, wind turbines and other green energy installations.
In Spring 2022, the UK government published a more in-depth report on renewable energy developments and how the public felt towards them.
Overall, 87% of the public were in favour of Solar power, wave and tidal energy scored a little less with 83% and the same for offshore wind at 83%.
On shore wind wasn’t as popular with 78% thinking it was a good idea and support for biomass was just 72%.
Again, the report concluded that the lower the score, the less people knew about the technology – so education appears to be the key to public support.
Attitudes toward Solar Panels
The decision of whether or not you want to put solar panels on your roof isn’t usually based on aesthetics, recent studies have found.
However, your perception of the aesthetics of the panel may be affected by your understanding of the technology, your enthusiasm for renewable energy and where your home is located.
People over 55, those who live in the countryside and people with a low understanding of solar power tend to be the ones who object to solar panels on roofs – or in fields.
This won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.
People who live in the countryside tend to be more concerned with tradition and the natural look of an area than they are with saving money or changing the aesthetics of their surroundings.
These feelings can be exacerbated by solar farms popping up on the landscape, the worry that old buildings may be damaged and, of course, NIMBYism.
Generational attitude to solar panels
In short, the Boomer Generation aren’t mad about solar, and we can put this down to traditional values in architecture, an ignorance of technology and an ingrained belief in the fossil fuels that built their lives.
Gen X, those of Grunge, Brit Pop and the rise of computer technology, are more forgiving of solar panels on roofs as they have a better understanding of the way solar works, they have lived through one energy crisis after another, and their kids being more concerned about the planet.
Which brings us to the Zoomers, or Gen Z, who couldn’t care less about panels on roofs, actively encourage the use of renewables and have no love of fossil fuels.
Why do Solar Panels look like they do?
Believe it or not, the way a solar panel looks has a lot to do with the way the PV cells inside them are made.
Polycrystalline PV Panels – these panels are made using polycrystalline silicon, which means the crystals in the cell are all squished together. This gives the cell a blueish hue. You may have seen panels on roofs, or more likely on solar farms, that look like blue chessboards and those are Polycrystalline PV Panels.
Monocrystalline PV Panels – inside one of these panels are PV cells made from a single silicon crystal. Removing impurities, and singling out the crystals, give the cell a matt black colour. These are by far the most popular of the current crop of solar panels and, when constructed from black materials, look fantastic on people’s roofs.
The Future of solar panel aesthetics
So, what are the boffins in the labs and design centres doing to make solar more appealing to the average customer?
In Roof Solar
You may have seen these on new build houses in your area.
Developers are obliged to add energy saving measures to their constructions and Solar is the easiest way to do it.
Obviously, they will go for the cheapest option that doesn’t ‘spoil’ the look of a new house.
So, they use in roof systems.
These are huge plastic trays that are fitted into the roof as it’s constructed so the panel’s face is in line with the tiles – with panels being standard PV Monocrystalline models.
To be fair they do look pretty good, and these systems protect the panels from extreme weather and wind.
This is a newer technology and still in development, but we are seeing solar tiles popping up all over the country.
Sometimes called solar shingles or solar slates, this emerging technology isn’t as popular as standard solar panels but it’s certainly starting to become a viable choice for British households.
Solar tiles are very adaptable and can be fashioned to fit the look of just about any roof.
This is a massive advantage if you live in a heritage site or anywhere where planning is a problem.
The disadvantages of solar tiles at the moment are they are not very efficient, and they cost a lot more than standard panels.
The lack of efficiency, around 10 – 15%, means you need a lot more coverage to get the same amount of yield a traditional panel gives.
You can cover a bigger area though, as you could tile your whole roof if you had the money to do it.
This table shows you the cost implications of solar tiles.
Learn more about the future of solar energy.
|Solar Tile Cost (Inc. VAT)
|Total Average cost
|Typical Solar Panel Cost
|£5,500 – £7,000
|£7,000 – £9,000
|£10,000 – £12,000
|£12,000 – £16,000