Green energy for the masses?

Is green energy about to get a boost? Solar panels are soon going to be available in high-street stores. Will this see the start of a green technology boom?

Solar panels on aisle three…

Solar energy is great. Easy to install, subsidised and capable of generating power just from sitting on your roof, there’s not much to hold against it. The set-up price, however, has stopped many people from investing in panels of their own.

The technology is still subsidised by the government, however strict application policies and requirements deter a lot of potential consumers. Ikea, the world’s biggest furniture retailer might be best known for cheap wardrobes and futons but they have plans to roll out a range of solar panel packages within the next 10 months. All 17 British stores will offer these solar packages and it follows a successful pilot scheme at the Lakeside store, which sells at least one photovoltaic system a day.

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Solar panels transform sunlight into electricity, making it one of the greenest energy producers around. It’s also a fantastic way to help lower legal carbon emission targets. An Ikea case study showed that an average semi-detached house with a south-facing roof would earn as much as £770 a year through subsidies and earn considerable savings on energy bills.

Ikea will be selling panels made by China’s Hanergy Holding Group Ltd, a large producer and manufacturer of thin-film PV panels. The package requires customers to spend a minimum of £5,700 which gets 18 panels. Once installed, these should break even within about seven years, having paid for themselves in terms of electrical generation. The package covers an in-store consultation, installation on their property and a maintenance package to keep the panels optimised and working correctly.

“We know that our customers want to live more sustainable and we hope working with Hanergy to make solar panels affordable and easily available helps them do just that,” said Joanna Yarrow, Ikea’s head of sustainability in the UK and Ireland.

The existing global leaders on the green energy market include Germany and Spain, and Britain’s current offering is relatively small in comparison. The market is growing however, with regular increases in year-on-year installations. In September the amount of energy produced by solar in the UK totalled 1.7 gigawatts, a rise of 25%. Ikea are leading the way in green energy by setting an ambitious target of sourcing 70% of their energy requirements from wind and solar by 2015, rising to 100% by 2020.

With solar panels making their way onto the easily accessible consumer market, it’s likely that the profit will create a new buzz around this technology. As always, when there’s money to be made there’s always money available for funding. This opens up the possibility of increases in research and development into solar and other green technology.

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