Ikea to Sell Solar Panels Alongside Kitschy Housewares, Futons, Meatballs

The furniture company is putting $77 million into the development of solar products.

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Updated on 08/15/08

Ikea, purveyor of cheap living room sets and futons for 20-somethings worldwide, will soon be offering another product you can pick up in a flat-pack: solar panels.

The Scandinavian company is already taking a lot of green steps—from renting out bikes with trailers for emission-free furniture delivery, to offering recycling for CFL bulbs—but their recent announcement that they will throw $77 million into research and product development of solar panels, efficiency meters, and energy-efficient lighting will have a big impact. Ikea franchises span the globe, with 283 stores in 36 countries, and 22 more locations that will be open by the end of fiscal year 2008. As a tastemaker, the company ushered out our collective affections for antiques and replaced them with a love for clean lines, white furniture, and modern, Bauhaus-inspired styles. Its influence could make solar panels cool because, as EcoGeek says, "if Ikea carries it, then it must be OK and not crunchy granola to use, right?"

The company hopes to make the products available in the next three to four years. I'll be on the lookout for information about installing the panels, which I imagine will be the toughest obstacle for the developers: how to make the installation of a solar panel, a seemingly daunting task, easy for anyone who can lug the flat-pack out of the store? And can it be done with only Ikea's signature pack of screws and miniwrench?

Update: Wondering what Ikea will name their solar panels when they come out? A friend passed along a fun Ikea Name Generator that spits out faux-Swedish names and furniture designs. When I input "solar panel,"  I got the name "SOLLARVIK PÄNEL" (a twin bed), and for "compact fluorescent bulb," the result was "KÖMPAKKT SFLYÅRESKKENT BJYLLB" (a chair). Try it with your own name - I'm an end table called the "MÅRKE."

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