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As eco-friendly and cost effective as solar panels are, they
have the unfortunate stigma of being too big and bulky to fit smoothly into the
landscape. It’s true that a lot of people have a mental image of solar panels
as being ugly and cumbersome – yet this idea is becoming more and more dated as
the technology advances. These days, solar panels are being built to be more
sleek and functional than ever, and they’re becoming an exterior design
addition that’s both useful and beautiful.
If you’ve read our blog post on commonmisconceptions about solar power, you’ll know that the idea of solar panels
being high-maintenance and unattractive is quickly becoming a thing of the
past. But for those looking to build an aesthetically pleasing landscape around
solar panels, there are a few tips you can pick up and things you should know
before you start planning. Let’s go through some examples and advice below.
Solar panel design trends
When it comes to landscaping trends, sustainability is the
name of the game. But despite the positive impact that solar power is having on
a global scale, many homeowners are still reluctant to show off the solar tech
installed on their property. It’s true that it can be a lot easier to simply
install solar panels on vertical stands, or attach them to the roof of a house
– but while this requires little effort, it can do a disservice both to your
property and to the public’s view of solar tech. Instead, taking the time to
plan out a landscape that integrates the panels into your property will make
your home look good and help erase
the idea that solar tech always has to look out of place.
Take a look at this house designed by Pb Elemental, as
highlighted on Houzz:
[Photo credit: Houzz]

Instead of attaching the panels to the roof, the solar
panels do what Houzz describes as triple duty: “They create energy but they
also shade the inside space and shed water away from the operable garage-type
door.”  This is a great idea for
homeowners looking to add an extra bit of form and function to a solar panel

If you want to go all in on the sustainability trend, why not
frame your green energy with a green roof? A piece from Organic Gardening magazine lays it out plainly: “If you have the
resources, framing solar panels with turf or green roofing systems can combine
an eco-landscaping trend with energy efficiency; green roofs, too, are a way to
harness water runoff and divert it to garden use rather than storm drains.” So
not only will you be capturing the sun’s rays to power your home, but you’ll
also be using your roof to make use of rainfall – a perfect solution to current
water shortages.
Here’s the green roof of a building called House Ocho, with
the solar panels applied horizontally to the house’s skylights:
[Picture credit: Fulcrum Structure Engineering via Houzz]
As you can see, the panels are positioned in a way that can
let light into the house below, as well as create an atmosphere that can be
conducive to native plant life, birds, and bees. A homeowner wanting more color
can go ahead and sculpt a garden around the solar panels that incorporates
plenty of bright flowers. The entire roof itself can be a structural work of
If you want to add solar panels on a smaller scale, here’s a
display of how mini-panels can be added as a focal point within a garden:
[Photo by Andrea Jones via The JMMDS Blog]
The juxtaposition of the solar panels amongst the tall grass
creates visual interest, as well as making the panels themselves look like a
garden decoration. It’s just one of the many unique ways that you can seamlessly
add solar tech to your property.
Before considering aesthetic value, homeowners and
landscapers both need to determine where solar panels can be placed for best
usage. If you’re not building a brand-new solar panel equipped home from the
ground up, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to properly
position the solar panels so that they can absorb the maximum amount of power
from the sun – because no matter how good the panels may look in your garden,
if they’re not exposed to enough sunlight, they will not be working at full
capacity. Landscaping Network has an easy explanation of solar orientation,
based on the sun’s moving position across the four cardinal directions:
“East: The east side of the house
will receive direct morning sun but will be shaded in the afternoon by the
shadow of the building itself.
West: The west side of the house
will be shaded in the morning but fully exposed to the hot afternoon sun.
South: The south side of the house
is most critical to passive solar design because it receives the most sunlight
throughout the day but never as intensely as the east or west sides.
North: The north facing side of the
house is almost always in shade.”
So before you start planning, it’s wise to pull out a
compass to determine where you should begin to place the panels. You wouldn’t
want to concentrate all of your design onto the north side of a house and miss
out on all the solar rays you could be harnessing.
Also, when thinking about incorporating solar panels into
exterior design, multitasking ought to be on your mind. As you can see in the
house samples shown above, many modern solar panel additions are functional in
numerous ways. For example, instead of simply having solar panels on an angle
against a flat roof, take a cue from the Pb Elemental house and create a
shelf-like canopy that can slope gently over a patio. You’ll get both solar
energy benefits and an overhead shelter from the elements when you want to sit
outside during the rain.
Speaking of rain, don’t be discouraged from installing solar
panels if you live in a part of the country that doesn’t seem to get a lot of
sunshine. Those who’ve read our blog post on common misconceptions about solar
power will know that solar panels work just as well in cooler or overcast conditions
as they do when it’s bright and sunny outside. So even on a day that’s less
than sunny, the UV rays will still be able to penetrate cloud cover and provide
clean energy to your home.
Creating homes that use less manmade resources and create
less of a carbon footprint is the way of the future – but that doesn’t mean you
need to live in an eyesore of a house. Instead, technology and design is
clearing the way for solar panels to be an addition that can multitask with the
best of them. There’s no better time to consider stepping out of the box when
it comes to solar panel installation – and the sky is the limit when it comes
to inventing your own perfect layout.
Have you seen any unique or innovative solar panel designs
on houses recently? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments.

Contributed by: SolarTech