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Designers Want to Fix the Big Ugly Problem With Solar Panels

Making green power installations more visually appealing is key as nations push to mandate renewables in urban centers to rural beauty spots. 

Solar troughs redirect the sun's rays to a central tower which heats water to generate steam to power turbines, at the Abengoa solar-thermal plant in Spain.

Solar troughs redirect the sun's rays to a central tower which heats water to generate steam to power turbines, at the Abengoa solar-thermal plant in Spain.

Photographer: Markel Redondo/Bloomberg

Plans to add tens of millions of solar panels across the rooftops of Beijing to stretches of rural Vermont face a common challenge — opposition from residents who view the modules as an eyesore.

That’s why designers including Netherlands-based Kiki van Eijk are focused on delivering energy arrays emblazoned with striking patterns, or equipment that blends subtly with existing nature or architecture, in an attempt to win over critics who worry adopting clean energy means souring the appeal of their neighborhood.