Lonely Planet Writer

Are solar panels in cities like San Francisco about to change the face of urban centres?

As Ikea begins selling solar panels for the first time and as San Francisco introduces a law forcing all newly built buildings to have solar panels, we wonder what the future of solar energy means for the appearance of our urban landscapes.

The Painted Ladies of San Francisco
The Painted Ladies of San Francisco Image by ventdusud

This week San Francisco became the first major US city to require solar panels on all newly built buildings that have up to 10 floors. According to their calculations, the solar panels could help diminish the amount of carbon dioxide by 26,000 metric tons!

The popularity of solar panels have been growing as people become increasingly eco-conscious while also becoming concerned over rising bills. The Swedish giant Ikea recognised that this week, when it began selling solar panels in its shops for the second time after a two year hiatus.

Alongside energy company SolarCentury, Ikea will be selling panels from a few British shops before rolling out the panels to most of its shops if the pilot goes well. Ikea staff will offer advice and a provisional quote to British customers who dream of a solar-powered home. UK specialist Solarcentury will then take them through the design and installation process.

In a study carried out by Ikea one-third of people wanted to go greener, and 60% of those were interested in solar panels because they believed it would reduce their bills.

The current panels Ikea is selling are said to take six weeks to install and will be cheaper than previous panel designs, meaning it’s highly likely that these panels will spread rapidly across our cities.

A roof fitted with solar panels.
A roof fitted with solar panels. Image by Marufish / CC BY-SA 2.0

This makes some wonder about the appearance of our future urban landscapes, if many houses are to have large panels everywhere.

A San Francisco or Philadelphia or London covered in solar panels would certainly make for a different sky-line, but most would argue that it has a low impact on the cities’ architectural integrity, and that panel designs have come a long way, making them slimmer, smaller and more aesthetically pleasing.

Going solar has never been prettier or easier.