IKEA stocks its shelves with solar panels

IKEA is taking a big step in pushing solar panels further toward the mainstream through the launch of a new test sale in Britain.

The retailer has begun selling residential solar panels in its Southampton store, with other locations in Britain due to start selling them in the coming months. IKEA has plans to eventually sell to other countries as well, though Britain was a strategic choice for a test program due to its moderate electricity costs and government incentives for promoting solar energy.

The panels, which are manufactured by China-based Hanergy, come in the form of 3.36 kilowatt systems and include in-store consultation, installation, maintenance and energy monitoring services. They are retailing for 5,700 British pounds, or $9,200.

The move is a first step of sorts in the retailer's overarching initiative to bring renewable energy to the mass market.

"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."

Howard added that consumers would recoup the cost through energy savings after approximately seven years.