In a step beyond low-cost, design-friendly furniture, Swedish retail giant Ikea has announced that it will begin selling solar panels directly to customers. In a partnership with China’s Hanergy Holding Group Ltd, Ikea will offer residential solar power systems to customers from 18 stores in the UK, the first step in a wider release to solar-conscious consumers. The offering goes further than just introductory solar panel kits, it involves comprehensive residential solar panel systems that are intended to fully power and support a single family home.
Ikea’s new solar panel offering starts in a package that would cost around $9,000 USD after currency conversion. This would include 18 thin photovoltaic panels which combine to provide nearly-constant energy, even on an island that isn’t known for its year-round sun. The UK government offers a subsidy for solar-powered homes that can reach as much as $1,200 USD annually, taking a bit of a bite out of the initial cost and ushering in a break-even a bit sooner. After break-even, the goal for the Ikea customer would be to enjoy free energy with little maintenance for the lifetime of the solar system.
A common criticism with Ikea products may need to be addressed as the furniture giant expands its solar offering to new markets. Will the Hanergy Holding Group solar systems outlast a low-cost Ikea coffee table? A solar panel system can only offer cost-savings for as long as it is operable, and it may require some pro-active outreach to show customers that these systems are built to last.
The Ikea solar panel systems will begin shipping as soon as this year to 18 stores throughout the UK. Ikea has not yet announced its intention to offer these systems in the United States, and it might be some time before your local blue-and-yellow giant offers solar solutions to you. For now, it’s a step in the right direction for Ikea, who hopes to source 100% of its own energy needs from the sun and the wind by 2020. [via gizmodo]