The world's biggest furniture chain has decided to make a foray into the renewable energy sector, offering solar panels to consumer at its UK-based stores.

In an official statement, the Swedish furniture retailer announced it would commence the sale of solar panels at its store in Southampton before bringing the products to the shelves of all 17 of its UK-based outlets within the next 10 months.

IKEA is using its UK operations to trial the sale of solar panels to retail customers. Based on their performance, the company will decide whether or not to provide the products to consumers in other countries within the next year.

While the UK may appear to be an unusual place to select for a trial of solar panel sales given its renown for inclement weather, IKEA’s chief sustainability officer Steve Howard says the products should still appeal to British consumers given the country’s mid-level electricity prices and the government’s financial support for renewable energy.

“It’s not the sunniest country in the world but you can absolutely can get a good amount of electricity [from solar panels],” Howard said to AFP.

The UK government provides financing to solar power investment, and also allows private owners of photovoltaic panels to sell electricity back to the grid when they enjoy surplus power generation.

According to Howard, customers should see a full return on investment from roof-installed solar panels within around seven years.

IKEA has chosen solar panels manufactured by China’s Hanergy for its UK retail trial, selling them for 5700 British pounds (approximately $9,875), as well as providing in-store consultation, installation, maintenance and energy monitoring services.

The company is certainly not the first major retail chain in the world to sell solar panels, with Home Depot and Lowe’s in the United States already stocking the products on their shelves.

IKEA’s decision to stock solar panels should cause considerable alarm amongst smaller suppliers of the product in markets such as Australia given the ability of the global retail chain to offer them at a significant discount due to both economies of scale and the company’s ability to bear thin margins.

The opportunity to buy solar panels from a reputable international retail chain is also likely to greatly heighten their appeal to consumers, who must otherwise perform their own due diligence into numerous specialist providers before making a decision about which product or service to purchase.