Flatpack Urbanism: IKEA Pioneers Off-the-Shelf Solar Panels

Solar Panel

This post is also available in: Chinese (Traditional), French, German

By Sejal Patel at Green Futures

IKEA is now offering ’off the shelf’ solar power packages to UK consumers, in a move that could help to mainstream domestic solar power systems. It is the first major retailer to offer a comprehensive home photovoltaic installation service, having teamed up with Hanergy, a thin-film PV supplier, to produce the package.

According to Giles Bristow, Director of Programmes at Forum for the Future, “Schemes such as this have the promise to significantly reduce the upfront costs to UK homeowners and make these technologies so much more accessible. Purely by virtue of IKEA offering this bundle in their stores, consumers will see that this technology is ready for the mainstream and available to almost everyone with a well-sited roof (and the ability to follow the flat-pack instructions).”

For a typical semi-detached house, a standard 3.36kW photovoltaic system will cost members of IKEA’s free-to-join loyalty scheme, Family Members, £5,700 – considerably less than the £7,000 average price-tag for solar PV systems, according to estimates from the consumer group Which?.

The price includes an in-store consultation and design service, as well as installation, maintenance and ongoing energy monitoring to measure the individual home’s energy generation and consumption. The panels will be fitted by Microgeneration Certification Scheme installers – a pre-requisite for customers to be able to benefit from feed-in tariffs. The average semi-detached householder could earn up to £768 a year from the combination of reduced bills and being paid for the energy that is generated, for a payback period of roughly seven years.

Research conducted by IKEA suggests the barriers in the solar power mass market have included high initial costs, misconceptions about payback periods, confusion of technical terms and options and concerns over aesthetics – all of which IKEA claim to address. Hanergy has introduced “the next generation all-black” solar panels to give consumers more choice over their roof’s new look.

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability, IKEA UK and Ireland, sees the scheme as part of IKEA’s ambition to make a more sustainable way of life attractive and easy for as many people as possible, “We’re excited to be able to help customers take positive actions at home for both the environment and their wallets. We know that our customers want to live more sustainably and we hope working with Hanergy to make solar panels affordable and easily available helps them do just that.”

The company ran a successful trial in their Lakeside store in July 2013, which now sells on average one PV package a day. Consequently, the scheme was rolled out in their Southampton store on 3 October and with plans for it to become available in all 17 of their UK stores by August 2014.

A similar scheme by Better Planet Solar PV Installations provides domestic installations that range from 2kWp to 4kWp, priced from £5,999. Other high-street retailers such as B&Q and Tesco currently only offer solar heating panels, which are more limited in scope and do not provide access to feed-in tariffs.

This article originally appeared in Green Futures, the magazine of independent sustainability experts Forum for the FutureImage via Pink Dispatcher.