Hold on, I need to look at my list here. I need to buy some Swedish meatballs, a couple chairs, some new food containers (I can never keep those lids around), and of course, solar panels. Can't forget the solar panels.
By the summer of 2014, British residential customers will be able to march right into one the country's 17 Ikea locations and buy thin film solar panels at the same place they'd buy their reasonably priced, designer home furnishings. Ikea made the move based on a pilot program at one of its stores which sold one solar setup per day. With new national subsidies and a minimum cost of £5,700 ($9,212), a buyer's solar setup is estimated to pay for itself in seven years.
Most can't even say that about a car purchase. The cost of solar panels includes in-store consultation, installation and maintenance. So I'm going to assume that you won't be getting the standard Ikea allan wrench for this purchase.
Ikea is making some pretty bold moves in the renewable energy sector these days. Earlier this year they announced their plans to become net producers of clean, renewable energy by 2020. They've already surged to second largest private producer of solar electricity in the US.
What we're witnessing is a vast and positive change in how the world produces energy, with Ikea and other responsible businesses paving the way. The emerging model is drifting away from centralized power production toward distributed, point-of-consumption power production. When regular folks like me can walk into a store and buy a full scale solar setup plus installation and maintenance in much the same way we'd buy a new roof or a car, it's an extraordinary step in the transition to clean energy, because it normalizes renewable energy.
I like this. No longer is renewable energy something you find in the pages of Popular Science. Or something engineers swear up and down works just fine. Something politicians wrangle over.
No. Now a home-scale solar array is something you can find at the store between the yellow brick of AA batteries and the PELLO chairs. That makes it REAL. It brings it down to earth. Makes it tangible. Normal. Not scary. Obviously I'm exaggerating how easy it is to purchase such a system, but you get the point. Renewable energy, distributed renewable energy, is moving its way to commonplace.
As utilities see smaller margins of energy growth and rising uncertainty for their mutli-million dollar power plant investments, rooftop solar poses a disruptive threat to the age old utility business model.
While rooftop solar is already causing jitters to U.S. utilities, we're not quite at the point of having residential solar available at the local Ikea. It's just a matter of time, though. We're not going to be dishing out the subsidies for it like Great Britain any time soon. But with solar coming down in price, it's on the horizon and Ikea already has a working model to introduce it to the marketplace.
Eric Justian is a professional writer living near the natural sugar sand beaches and singing sand dunes of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. When he's not wrangling his kids or tapping at his computer, he likes to putter in his garden, catch king salmon from the Big Lake, or go pan fishing with his boys. As a successful blogger his main focus has been energy, Great Lakes issues and local food. Eric is a founding member of the West Michgian Jobs Group, a non-profit organization that evolved from a Facebook page called Yest to West Michigan Wind Power which now has over 8000 followers. West Michigan Jobs Group promotes independent businesses and sustainable industries in the West Michigan area. As the Executive Director of that organization he has advocated renewable energy as both a clean energy alternative for Michigan and a new industry with which to diversify our economy and spark Michigan innovation and jobs.