IKEA has long been known for two things: affordable furniture that can be surprisingly fun, and assembly instructions that could baffle a member of MENSA. Now, it’s branching out into something else at its UK stores; IKEA will start selling solar panels, and much to the relief of everyone who’s ever put together a piece of furniture from the Swedish giant, the company is also providing installation. No muss, no fuss and hey presto, renewable energy!
The company has already gone solar itself with panels on its stores across the world to meet the substantial daily energy needs of a facility with a giant footprint, lots of lighting and long operating hours. It hopes to have 100% of its energy needs independently met by 2020. That was a great first step for the company, which has also worked in the past on initiatives like securing environmentally-friendly supply chains for its wood products. Now, it wants to extend the benefit to customers with affordable solar panels, underscoring the fact that solar energy is getting more affordable, and ubiquitous, than ever before.
In less than a year, IKEA hopes to have panels on offer at all of its UK stores, which is a great pilot project for something we hope will roll out elsewhere too. The price tag is going to be a little higher than you’re probably used to at IKEA, as customers will need to spend close to $10,000 US on an initial outlay for panels and installation, but the store estimates people will break even on the purchase within approximately seven years. Remember, it’s not just about the money you save on electricity, but about the power you feed back into the grid, forcing the utility to purchase your excess.
The profit margin on solar panels isn’t quite as large as other items in the IKEA marketplace, but the company still hopes to make a go of it. If it succeeds, it will really push solar mainstream by making it easy to access, creating an environment where homeowners interested in going solar won’t have to tear their hair out over the process. Mainstreaming solar will also make it more popular, which should drive costs down even further as demand rises. Much as Walmart forced down the prices of organic produce by offering it across its large family of stores (though some have accused the company of greenwashing, not really committing to change), IKEA could be ushering in a new era for solar.
For those outside the UK dying to get their hands on some IKEA solar panels, we counsel patience. First, the company needs to see that the project is a success in the United Kingdom. If the sales numbers go well and the public is responsive, IKEA will likely spread the project to other regions of the world, and the United States is likely high on the list of possible sites for a solar rollout. Thanks to the high percentage of the U.S. population interested in green initiatives, alternative energy, solar, and affordable options for helping the environment, IKEA no doubt has its eyes on the U.S. market and the possibilities that lie within.
Meanwhile, you can check out more local options for solar panels if you’re interested, such as Sungevity, Solar City and Clean Energy Experts.
Photo credit: Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.