Technology Profile – Solar
SolarSkin: Aesthetic Solar
SolarSkin®is a graphic film appliqué that allows solar panels to more attractively blend in on the roof.
BY CLAUDE SCHMIDT
WITH SENTHIL BALASUBRAMANIAN
A ONCE SEEMINGLY INNOCUOUS SCIENCE-CLASS EXPERIMENT, a simple solar cell converting light into electricity, has reached critical mass — powering homes, businesses, and even cities. Developing nations are embracing solar as a cost-effective alternative to fossil-fuels. Industrialized nations are supplementing and even shifting from existing energy sources.
Sadly, while the combination of manufacturing cost reductions, governmental subsidies, and mandates are increasing solar power adoption, there is still a long way to go to reach levels that will make a significant global impact.
In point of fact is the California Energy Commission’s directive to enact a residential home net-zero energy policy as of January 1, 2020. It begins with the California Building Standards Commission’s mandate that all newly constructed single family or multi-family homes are to be solar powered. Mandates might seem harsh, but it’s just one more attempt to overcome resistance to this energy technology.
One commonly encountered drawback is that solar panels look ugly. While the benefits of solar power go without saying for many, there is no looking past 20 or so panels lurking on the roof. If only, right?
Enter Sistine Solar®, founded in 2012 by a team of MIT graduate students. Over many a casual conversation, the founding team discussed the impact that Industrial and UX Design were making in the technology sector to deliver improved product aesthetics and experiences that could, in this particular case, excite and in CEO Senthil Balasubramanian’s words, “speak to consumers’ hearts.”
While not a solar panel manufacturer, Sistine Solar has developed a highly durable, graphic film appliqué that can visually blend with any existing or soon to be installed solar system into the roof aesthetic without adversely impacting the system’s efficiency. Drawing from a qualified team of artists and designers, along with an extensive swatch database and a proprietary algorithm, SolarSkin® can be graphically matched to roofing material ranging from shingles and tile to metal roofing, or even personalized with a logo or artwork for a bit more flair at minimal additional cost to the system.
Developed over four years via exhaustive environmental testing and employing materials proven to last 30-40 years of extreme outdoor usage, SolarSkin is certified to withstand inclement weather spanning Arizona’s endless sunshine to Florida’s intense, humid heat, the intense Northern cold, and everything in-between. In addition to being fade-resistant to ensure a beautiful aesthetic over the useful product life, SolarSkin has passed energy efficiency tests at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. SolarSkin also comes with a 10-year manufacturer warranty.
I caught up with Senthil Balasubramanian, CEO and Founder of Sistine Solar, to walk us through the design and installation process.
SENTHIL BALASUBRAMANIAN: As you previously mentioned, we have a design center where homeowners, architects or builders can contact us and send photographs of their roof design, along with the make and model of their solar panels. Our proprietary design algorithm ensures that the finished product is faithful to the original design of the roof.
We then fabricate the skin, in a modular fashion that mirrors the individual panel sizes of the solar array. So if you have 20 solar panels, we will ship you 20 individual SolarSkin graphic skins. We have installers nationwide who can install the product, let’s say on a typical array, in approximately three hours.
We are seeing architects, builders, and others in the design-build community embracing the aesthetic advantages of SolarSkin. As proof, we have completed installations in nine states and counting, including projects in homeowner associations with stringent aesthetic criteria and installations for custom homebuilders. Our network of partner installers has also grown rapidly to reach a nationwide footprint.
If you look at modern TVs and mobile phones, the technology embraces design, and the design embraces technology. That is what our goal was when we created Sistine Solar and the SolarSkin product.
how to get started
Ready to get started and need more information? Contact Sistine Solar at SistineSolar.com to begin the process. A SolarSkin representative will work with you from the design through the installation to assure success.
So, why not listen to your heart and SolarSkin your solar system?