New design guide will help solar panels shine

For the first time, a simple national guide helps property owners install attractive solar panels

161013-solar-panels-picGet them right, and they can be an attractive part of your home and lower your electricity bills. That’s the message about solar panels from a countryside charity and a leading building science centre, who have teamed up to prevent common design pitfalls.

The new guide and summary leaflet on solar design, published in October 2016 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and BRE National Solar Centre, show how solar panels on buildings can look good whatever the structure or surrounding landscape [1,2].

Among the various design principles, CPRE advocates the use of panels that match the size and shape of existing roof tiles. Other suggestions include installing panels symmetrically or ensuring that panels fully cover the roof. Aimed at property owners, designers and installers, the guide and leaflet also illustrate how the sun is already helping to power an incredible range of the nation’s buildings – from homes and listed churches to greenhouses and office blocks.

With millions of viewers tuning in to programmes such as Grand Designs each week, there is a clear appetite for innovative design, and 800,000 home solar panel systems have already been installed in the UK [3].

New technologies are reducing the cost of solar panels, despite Government cuts to solar subsidies. The publication of the guide has therefore come at a very useful time to showcase solar developments that protect the countryside. The guide is being promoted at the Clean Energy Live event in Birmingham on 4 October [4].

Kim Hagen, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, comments:

“Whether you’re installing solar on a historic country house or a simple garden shed, it’s no longer difficult to make your building look great. It can be as simple as positioning the panels to reflect the structure of your roof. Or you might want to consider using technologies to generate electricity from glass in windows.

“Combining simple principles with inspiring case studies, this guide shows how solar can fit in well with our towns, villages and countryside while helping provide some of the energy we need.”

Chris Coonick, senior consultant at BRE National Solar Centre, says:

“Over the last six years in the U.K. solar PV systems have become a more common sight on homes and buildings.

“With innovations in solar panel design and methods of integration there are more options available for improving the aesthetics of solar PV installations in the built environment. This guide highlights the fundamental considerations for good visual design.” [5]

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association, comments:

“CPRE’s solar design guidance will help home owners understand both the wide range of solar products on offer today and how they can work with installers to ensure solar is a truly attractive addition to their home, whatever their budget and wherever they live.

“Given the great range of products on offer today and some fabulous examples of best practice there is no excuse for solar roofs which are anything less than stunning. The guide supports our own work to continually raise standards across the industry.”




Notes to editors

[1] The guide: BRE and CPRE, Ensuring place responsive design for solar photovoltaics on buildings, October 2016.
The leaflet: CPRE, Solar Design: your 10-point guide, October 2016.

[2] The BRE National Solar Centre was established in 2012 to provide independent, evidence-based advice on solar energy systems and related topics.

[3] Ofgem, Feed-in Tariff Installation Report, 31 March 2016.

[4] The Clean Energy Live event is being held at the NEC in Birmingham, UK, 4-6 October 2016.

[5] Solar ‘PV’ is a solar photovoltaic system.


Case studies (images available on request):

Solar roofs on low-carbon homes at the BRE Innovation Park

The BRE Innovation Park in Watford uses a range of innovative construction approaches and techniques. The most recent houses incorporate different types of integrated solar technology in the roofs. The park currently showcases 10 domestic and non-domestic buildings, including the Zero Bills Home.

The glass-glass laminate atrium roof on the Zero Bills home uses several of the design principles from the guide, including colour and contrast, in-roof windows and skylights and symmetry between the panels.

Solar panels on the outbuilding of an historic country home

This project uses principles from the guide, including symmetry of solar panels, for an installation on a country home in a sensitive local context in Cambridgeshire.

This project used large format solar panels of the same size, all in the same position and integrated into the roof of the building. They cover approximately 18m² and span the roof from eaves to ridge, giving the installation a clean, uncluttered look.

For more information please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819 /

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Emma Bridgewater, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.


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