This story was first published on June 20, 2015
THE table in the garden of a family home in Niederglatt, not far from Zurich, looks like many a garden table - simple design, chromium steel, matt finish.
But there's a difference: One leg reveals a cable that runs along the ground and ends up in a power point. The table top is black and turns out to be made of glass, covering a set of solar panels.
"My solar table is an energy-producing piece of furniture," said Mr Markus Weingartner, an electrical engineer, father of two, hobby innovator and furniture creator.
The "solar table" generates 280 kilowatthours of electricity a year, enough to cover 30 per cent of a person's energy consumption or to power an ebike for 70km every day.
Mr Weingartner, 49, has his own business for solar installations. He designed the solar table in 2013 because he anticipated a change: "Ten years from now, we won't be seeing a lot of solar panels on small roofs anymore."
Although solar technology becomes ever cheaper, he says, installation costs will remain high.
Mr Weingartner, who also builds solar panels for flower pots and coffee tables, said: "Ecologyminded people can do something for the environment without needing to obtain a building permit and having to spend 30,000 francs (S$43,437) on a solar installation."
His solar table costs 3,400 Swiss francs.
He has sold about 30 pieces so far, but he needs to sell at least 300 to cover his expenses - high in the hundred thousands.
But, he said, the solar table is the first step on his family's path to energy selfsufficiency. "The sun is a democratic source of energy."
CHRISTIAN ZURCHER, TAGESANZEIGER/NIEDERGLATT (SWITZERLAND)