How I Grew To Love The Aesthetics of Rooftop Solar

I worried my panels would be ugly. Now I think they look awesome

Clive Thompson
6 min readMar 27, 2023


A sideways view of the solar panels on my roof. There are four triangular aluminum struts, each about nine feet tall, supporting a flat canopy of solar panels that is about 30 feet long and 20 feet wide
The solar panels on my roof

That picture above?

It’s the solar array on the roof of my house in Brooklyn.

When I first had them installed four and a half years ago, I worried they’d look terrible.

It’s partly because they’re jacked up high in the air like that. In Brooklyn — where the houses have flat roofs and are joined together — fire regulations require that roofs have plenty of clear space for firefighters to move around. If you want to have a lot of panels (and I did), you need to have them raised up high so firefighters can walk around beneath. (The “canopy” design is by Brooklyn SolarWorks, my installer.)

Back in 2018, I definitely wanted a solar array; prices had dropped and electrical yield had risen so much that I could amortize the panels in about seven and a half years, so after that — dirt-cheap energy with a dramatically lower carbon footprint! (And a significant boost to the value of my home.)

But the look of the panels? Eh. I worried it’d look like a weird Meccano contraption stapled to the top of my building. Cool engineering, to be sure, but … fugly.



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.