And the answer is: you can have them in any colour as long as it’s black…or in the case of solar panels, a sort of silvery dark blue. Ok, so the analogy isn’t great, but the premise behind it is the same. Much like the iconic early twentieth century car, say the phrase “solar installation” to someone, and it’s usually only one single colour that springs to mind. Images of a shimmering expanse of solar panels, spread like a sea over the countryside or shining from our rooftops, conjure up many well deserved accolades of sustainability and efficiency, but a thing of beauty? Not such a common first reaction. Indeed, solar installations are often criticised for their appearance. One of the most common objections to large scale solar projects is the visual impact. How are these futuristic looking developments going to fit in with England’s green and pleasant lands?
It’s understandable why people are worried, but they needn’t be. The answer lies with changing people’s perceptions of solar. It can be beautiful – it can be art. Solar artwork is a creative genre which challenges the common misconceptions of solar by creating solar powered art installations.
Take the Solar Collector, for example. A sculpture created by artists Matt Gorbet, Rob Gorbet, and Susan LK Gorbet, this large scale project features several shafts which create patterns of light performed at dusk each evening. And yes, it’s entirely powered by solar. You can even create your own pattern online.
Or take the beautiful works of Sarah Hall – photovoltaic installations that look more like stained glass. She captures images of waterfalls cascading down buildings, or leaves floating across a wall, and makes you forget that this is a working solar installation. It’s generating electricity as you look at it.
The possibilities for combining solar with aesthetically pleasing design are endless. Take the Blue Forest project in Abu Dhabi, for instance. Working in collaboration with Solar Artworks, Blue Team Architects are creating a public area, shaded by solar panel “trees”. When the sun goes down, the clean energy that has been collected can be used to power LED lights to illuminate the space after dusk.
So solar plants and visually appealing installations need not be mutually exclusive. Whether on a large or small scale, with a bit of ingenuity and a whole lot of creative talent, I envisage it won’t be long before the phrase “solar installation” conjures up a very different image indeed.