Greg Barker surprised by lack of public outcry over ‘ugly solar panels’

Greg Barker has questioned the aesthetics of “bright blue [solar] panels with aluminium standing proud on a tile roof” that have been prevalent in the UK domestic market. 

The former climate change secretary told members of the solar industry at the Solar Trade Association’s recent Does the new government mean business for solar, that he was “amazed that so many of those ugly solar panels were installed on residential houses without more of an outcry".

Barker believes that aesthetics will be “really important for the solar industry going forward”. The UK solar sector has experienced an increased demand for aesthetically superior solar modules, triggering a huge surge in popularity of black-on-black modules in the market.

Barker continued: “If it’s important enough that we have good design on major public buildings then it’s important that we have that on people homes.

“Actually installing solar panels should look nice, or enhance the visual amenity of that building. And I’m glad to see that a lot of responsible developers and installers are now thinking about that and are using products that mean that solar looks attractive. Not standing out like an eyesore – those bright blue panels with aluminium standing proud on a tile roof.”

The next logical step for aesthetically-pleasing solar arrays is the implementation of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Traditionally more expensive than standard retrofit installations, BIPV hasn’t experienced the level of growth that many in the industry had predicted. BIPVs poor performance has been confounded by the government’s repeated watering down of the Zero Carbon Homes standard.

However, Barker’s push for more aesthetically pleasing solar installations will oppose his desire to see the sector continue its aggressive cost reduction, which he described as “the best thing that solar has in its favour”. 

He continued: “[Cost reductions] have to continue, the industry cannot let up on that. I know that it will become progressively more difficult, the low-hanging fruit has been picked – it’s a messier, harder, more challenging business; you have to bring down those costs.”