Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

Transition Culture has moved

I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

4 Dec 2007

My Brilliant Idea for Triggering a Solar Revolution.

celebsA recent train journey and my obligatory hoovering up of all the newspapers and crap magazines people leave behind gave me a long-overdue opportunity to get up to date with pop culture; which celebrities are happy with their big bottoms and which ones aren’t, and what’s ‘in’ and what’s not (with no TV I live a very sheltered life ordinarily you see). Apparently, all the rage at the moment are designer handbags, which various female celebs can’t be seen without, and which are put out in limited editions at knee-buckling prices, touted as being this season’s ‘must haves’. An article in the Observer magazine on Sunday explored the emergence of ‘designer water’, brands such as BlingH2O and Elsenham, spring water in fancy bottles, labelled so as to look exclusive, and sold at over £30 a bottle in the exclusive nightclubs of Soho and wherever else in London has exclusive nightclubs (told you I live a sheltered life), at something like a 10,000 to one mark up on tap water.

eggThe taste for ‘bling’ and for conspicuous consumption seems to be inexhaustible. Last week, an anonymous Russian dealer paid £8.9 million for the famous Faberge egg, one of the most revoltingly kitsch pieces of ostentatious nonsense ever to leave a jeweller’s workbench. The same week, at Harrods annual dog fashion show (I kid you not), unveiled their £500,000 diamond-studded dog collar, complete with an 18 carat gold bone. Might dog muggings become a regular phenomenon of the Last Days of the Oil Age?

I wondered though, as I flipped past articles about Beyonce’s latest dress and dream holidays, if the person who bought the Faberge egg has solar panels on their house, or whether they would see those as an extravagance? On a far lesser scale, I often meet people who say they can’t afford solar panels or insulation, yet will think nothing of spending way more than that on a car, or a holiday.

Anyway, all this ploughing through these magazines, wondering who half these people we’re supposed to be so fascinated by actually are, got me thinking, and I’ve come up with a Cunning Plan. I think its a winner. How about, as a way of getting solar panels onto more roofs, the answer isn’t to make them cheaper, but rather to make them more expensive. Much more expensive. Perhaps what we need is designer solar panels, with sufficient ‘bling’ factor to them.

We could get Stella McCartney to design them, perhaps Kate Moss might be seen with them on her house, and we might bring out limited edition ones every year. Then the Notting Hill celebs could have this year’s ‘in’ solar panels, with pink fur trim or somesuch nonsense, and then next year, when Armani bring out their rival and far more trendy ones, they will replace them, and pass them on to you or I for a reasonable amount (or perhaps we could just wing by and pick them out of the skip). I wouldn’t mind my panels having spent a year on Sir Elton’s roof, I could live with that. Getting them second hand in this way would probably save more money than one currently gets through the Government grant scheme.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em I say. Our adverts might run something like this (although actually anything *really* designer doesn’t need much advertising, it should sell itself by viral buzz…);

>“Distilled from the finest Turkish silicon, and hand crafted by solar artisans, these new solar panels are the must-haves for 2008. Designed by Louis Vitton, the SensuSolar panel tells the world not just that you care, but that you love life, you are sensual, passionate and live life to the full. Boasting a chic streamlined design, with purple trim and sleek curves, these panels will not just power your house, but also power your life”.

Or some such similar daft guff. I tell you, they’d be flying out the door, and the following year, we’d all be getting them for peanuts. It’s genius I tell you.

Perhaps some of this thinking is behind Damien Hurst’s (he of stuffing-dead-sheep-in-tanks fame) recent announcement that he intends to cover the roof of his studios (presumably filled with lots of assistants stuffing sheep in tanks on his behalf) with 1,800 sq.ft. of photovoltaics, meaning that he would be producing 2% of the total amount of electricity generated by PV in the UK. Although this figure tells us more about the poor state of PV in the UK rather than it does about the size of Hurst’s roof, it does raise the question, if solar panels can be art, they can surely be designer bling too?

Perhaps given the fact that the UK government’s grant scheme for solar has shrunk to a point where it is so derisory as to be almost not worth bothering with, while at the same time, purple limited edition handbags are flying off the shelves, this reverse psychology and lateral thinking might just work. If we can crack Hello Magazine we’ve made it. “Sir Elton throws open his doors and we marvel at his stunning leopardskin patterned solar panels”. Just make a note, I had this idea first. If you make millions with it, remember to cut me in, eh?

Categories: Energy, Technology

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Stephen Watson
4 Dec 9:31am

Rob, that is inspired! Reading this got my day off to a good start. I reckon this one could really work, especially when remembering one of the most important truths (as amply illustrated by the first few paragraphs of your article) that “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”. A lot stranger.

Jason Cole
4 Dec 9:56am

They’d go nice with the “Exterior Christmas House Lights” bling that some people dress their houses with.

Jane Buttigieg
4 Dec 10:20am

Cool idea! But why stop there? How about Vivienne Westwood garden compost bins with matching kitchen compost caddies? Or even better, Grayson Perry ‘Brides of Christ’ water butts…harvest your rainwater in style! It would only take the Beckhams to market them, and a subsequent market in counterfeit copies to blossom and you could really be onto something here. Anyone got contact info for Vivienne Westwood?

4 Dec 2:25pm

A very cunning plan, indeed >;-)

4 Dec 6:24pm

“Although this figure tells us more about the poor state of PV in the UK rather than it does about the size of Hurst’s roof…”

Actually it tells us everything about the size of Hurst’s roof. That would be 1800 square foot, I reckon.

What, me, pedantic?

Nice to meet you at the Freemasons Hall meeting in September, by the way (if you remember…). Keep up the good work!

4 Dec 7:16pm

Think on it.

Camping became cool when Cath Kidston (sp) designed tents for one of the outdoor shops.

4 Dec 9:10pm

If you REALLY want the celebs to strap a few PVs on their roof, I suggest you could just mention quietly how RARE silicon is getting, or that ‘Peak Gallium’ is in about 30 years from now. That should do it. These guys’ll be using it all up like CRAZY if you tell them that. Bring on dye-sensitized thin film modules at sensible prices for us peasants and give the crystals to the glitterati …

5 Dec 7:17am

Brilliant idea, Rob! Designer composting toilets come to mind. Now there’s a challenge…….

pete rout
6 Dec 11:06am

Tell them to do it quick before we can no longer manufacture them or is there a way to manufacture with no oil?
can I have mine in leather??

6 Dec 11:45pm

Just watched tonight a film about the island of Samso off Denmark that has gone 100% renewable in 10 years.
Having just read this post by Rob, one of the key things that struck me about the success of this project seems to be that having renewable energy technology for your home or as an investment has become a kind status symbol there. So that rather than having a Merc in the garage people would put solar water heating or PV on their roof or invest in local wind generation etc.
So maybe you were pipped at the post with your brilliant idea Rob, but on the other hand I didn’t see any diamante or leopardskin……

9 Dec 2:02pm


What is the name of that film?


12 Dec 10:25pm

Good idea. It already works for cycling, according to the Times, which claims rich people cycle further:

The Artisans Edge
8 Mar 1:19am