In order to tap into the growth of the renewable energy market, Swedish furniture giant Ikea will begin selling solar panels at its British stores. If successful, it seems likely this would spread to the United States, where subsidies for solar and wind power would make it a good buy for American customers.
Customers who buy the 3.37 kilowatt capacity systems (about average size for a mid-size home in the States) will also get an in-store consultation, along with installation and maintenance services over the life of the solar panels.
"In the past few years the prices on solar panels have dropped, so it's a really good price now," IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard told The Associated Press. "It's the right time to go for the consumers."
Howard estimated that customers would make up the cost of the panels within seven years. Similar to many U.S states, Britain has a net metering program that lets rate payers sell excess electricity produced by solar panels back to the grid. Although the UK isn't one of the world's great solar countries – it has a total installed capacity of 1.7 gigawatts, less than a quarter of what the U.S. has – the country does generously subsidize solar panel systems, which makes it a good testing ground for Ikea's new product.
It could be a major boon for renewable energy in the U.S. if customers begin to see solar panels as a retail commodity that you can pick up at a local store, rather than something that requires months of bidding and work from contractors. With a low barrier to entry, the already-fast growth of the American solar market may accelerate even further.