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IKEA to bring residential solar panels to the mass market, starts test sale in Britain

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STOCKHOLM - Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA will start selling residential solar panels at its stores in Britain, the first step in its plan to bring renewable energy to the mainstream market worldwide.

The company started selling solar panels made by China's Hanergy in its store in Southampton on Monday. It will sell them in the rest of Britain in coming months, it said.

A standard, all-black 3.36 kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost 5,700 British pounds ($9,200) and will include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service.

"In the past few years the prices on solar panels have dropped, so it's a really good price now," IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard told The Associated Press. "It's the right time to go for the consumers."

The solar panel investment will be paid off in about seven years for an average home owner in Britain, Howard said.

"If you are going to be in your house that long, your energy will be free after seven years," he said.

Some retailers in the U.S., including the Home Depot and Lowe's, already sell solar panels. But in other parts of the world, consumers often have to research a myriad specialist firms before making a purchase.

Howard said IKEA aims to launch the products in other countries eventually. It picked Britain as its test market because it has the right combination of mid-level electricity prices and government-sponsored financial incentives that make investing in solar energy attractive to consumers.

"This is a market by market decision," he said.

The U.K. government offers private solar panel owners the opportunity to sell back electricity to the grid on days when they have surplus production and has a financing plan for solar power investments, which means residents can buy a system for no upfront cost and pay it off gradually.

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