Dutch manufacturer ZEP introduced its patented solar tile roof last year, but the first use of the innovative roofing material took place on October 7 in the town of Rheden. The tiles are installed on the roof of an historic property known as the Priesnitzhoeve which was built in 1870. Because the solar cells embedded in the tiles are invisible, they do not alter the aesthetics of buildings the way a conventional rooftop solar panel system would do.
How solar installations look when completed is becoming a concern for many potential customers. Elon Musk, chairman of SolarCity, announced in July that the company is working on a similar product — a solar system that is not a roof with solar panels mounted over it — but rather a single product, roof and solar panels combined into one. Musk claims the SolarCity offering will enhance the look of the homes it is installed on.
How rooftop solar systems look has been a barrier to installing them in historically protected areas. Often people who own historic properties are not allowed to install solar panels on their roofs because they are prohibited by local building codes or historic district regulations. Several communities in The Netherlands have approved the ZEP solar roof tile and the company expects it will be soon be approved for use in other countries as well.