The purpose of Artisanal PV is to be an open source design guide and general reference resource for solar PV.
It’s hard to imagine something that is so potentially vital to the future habitability of our planet that nonetheless has had minimal attention paid to aesthetics… if collectively we are actually going to address climate change we need a lot of homeowners and property owners in general, like tens of millions of them, to power their homes with solar PV… if you spend a little time googling images of solar installations and you look at the current design options there’s a palpable lack of enthusiasm… solar is boring.
The single best innovation in solar the past ten some odd years has been Elon Musk’s solar roof shingles, which is basically “how do you blend the silicon wafer in to a roof shingle”. While hardly an original idea, kudos to Musk for popularizing it. Although he’s merely reinforced the idea that aesthetically pleasing solar is synonymous with “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”… hide the panels, I don’t want to see them. Fair enough, but I feel that we can do better.
The flipside to the solar shingle are these inelegant, industrial looking car park awnings or clumsy canopy systems that are custom designed and are costwise out of reach or just flat out impractical for the average residential consumer and small commercial business owners.
In defense of poor design options, there are a number of challenges. First and foremost cost, solar manufacturers have been primarily focused on driving down the cost to the consumer to buy and install solar, which means for the most part sizes and shapes are pretty much standardized across the board. A solar panel is a big rectangle made of glass and silicon cells, the main goal has been to make them more efficient rather than versatility of design. Add to that, the building industry as a whole tends to like, and almost require, standardized sizes. As a result solar panels are ultra utilitarian and not really seen to be all that much more.
The focus on cost and efficiency has been successful, the cost of a solar panel has plummeted, in 2009 solar cost about $8.50 per watt, now it’s down to just under $3.00 per watt installed (per EnergySage).
The Big Idea
This is pretty straight forward. We’re going to use this site as a place to bring together individuals – artists, architects, designers through various competitions, word of mouth and whatnot to submit design ideas for artistically interesting solar PV designs. We’re going to welcome all reasonably well executed designs, with a focus on projects and ideas that can actually be built and put in to service. While for the time being, we’re happy to encourage a lot of imagination that might not be so practical, the future plan is to have a library of designs that actually work and can be built, plans, drawings, schematics that can be downloaded, shared and edited, for systems that are affordable and aesthetically pleasing. Thus the name, artisanal PV.
Honestly, we’re not exactly sure where this is going, its one big experiment, lets see how it works.