What Are Solar Skins?

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Solar Skins - Solar Panel Camouflage

Solar technology has blossomed over the past couple of years. There are several different solar panel technologies out there that claim they enhance the efficiency of solar cells. Other tech options, like solar shingles, increase the aesthetic appeal of residential solar.

Another technology that is relatively new to the market is solar skin. Solar skin first came on the market in 2016, after the founders of Sistine Solar received a grant from the US Department of Energy for product testing. As of 2021, Sistine Solar has completed several successful solar skin installations across 18 states with the help of its solar installation partners.

Solar Skin Technology: How Solar Skins Work

Solar skin technology uses a material that lays on top of the solar panel. This overlay has selective light filtration, so minimal module efficiency impact occurs.

Sistine Solar states that solar skins can preserve up to 99 percent of the array’s original efficiency. The efficiency decrease depends on the overlay design and how much of the system it covers. The commercial options range from 92 to 99 percent retained efficiency.

Most homeowners choose a solar skin that mimics the shingles on their roof. This choice helps the solar panel blend into the roofline. However, an adventurous individual could put whatever graphic, design or pattern they want on their solar array.

Solar Skins Pros and Cons

This product, however, is not immune to negative aspects worth considering. While camouflaging your solar array has its appeal, this technology is not only new to the solar market, but it has a couple of notable unfavorable aspects to take into account. However, before looking into the cons, let’s delve into the pros of this product.

Solar Skin Pros

The obvious pro to adding solar skin to your solar array is that it helps any solar panel blend with the roofline. However, solar skin can also turn your home into a piece of art or a company roof into ad space.

The prolonged life promise resulting from NREL, Fraunhofer and Atlas testing is another pro. This product uses a 30-plus-year durable film, has long-term non-yellowing color retention and lessens solar panel glare.

The product testing included cracking, dirt retention, blistering, browning, yellowing and delamination. It has also been flash tested and tested for optimal light transmission.

The Cons of Using Solar Skin

The first solar skin con is the decreased solar panel efficiency. While this technology does let light through, it does block some of the UV light.

Another thing to consider is the extra cost of adding solar skin to your solar array. Homeowners already spend thousands of dollars investing in solar. This technology adds to that cost.

Lastly, although the applique uses a 30-year lifetime technology, it is only warranted for ten years. The average solar panel has a 25-year warranty, which means that the solar skin may start to fade and potentially decrease module efficiency even further before the solar panels have reached their projected end-of-life. 

Are Solar Skins a Good Fit for Your Home?

The decision to add solar skins to your home depends on a few factors. Below are three to consider.

First, it depends on whether you feel an image of your shingles on top of your solar array looks better than a traditional solar array. While some feel solar is ugly and needs camouflaging, others don’t mind the look of solar on their home, and others even feel it adds to it.

Second, it depends on whether you have the budget to add solar skins to your array. While solar saves money, it still has a price tag. Solar skin increases this price tag.

Lastly, whether it’s a good fit depends on whether you think the athletics of the array is more important than the efficiency of the solar array. Because solar skin decreases the light the solar panel can absorb, it takes away from the potential savings of residential solar.

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