How did solar power evolve into what it is today? The history of solar energy dates back to ancient times when people started implementing solar power for tasks ranging from the mundane to the ingenious.
Early Use of the Sun
Life on Earth is possible because of the sun’s power. For a long time, humans have tried to harness concentrated sun energy. To light fires, heat homes, and generate energy to power modern homes and businesses, as well as for heating them. Historians believe that humans began lighting fires using the Sun’s light as a focus through magnifying glasses in the 7th century B.C.
Later in the 3rd Century B.C., Romans and Greeks started using “burning mirrors”, to light their torches. Early civilizations used the Sun’s energy to create architectural structures. They created “sunrooms” which were large windows that let in sunlight and heat. In 1767, the first solar oven was created. This is a device that heats food and beverages using sunlight.
The Invention and Development of the Solar Cell & the Photovoltaic Effect
Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, first demonstrated the photovoltaic effect. This is the ability of a sunspot to convert sunlight into electricity. The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of photovoltaic technology. Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created New York’s first rooftop solar array. It was built one year after Thomas Edison’s launch of the first commercial coal-fired power plant.
Willoughby Smith, an English electrician, discovered photoconductivity for the element Selenium (atomic number 34 on the periodic table). In 1876, Professor William Grylls Adams demonstrated with Richard Evans Day that selenium can be used to convert solar energy into electricity. Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created the first photovoltaic cells using Selenium wafers in 1883.
Other Important Solar Events in History
Solar panels in space: As the space age advanced, solar panels were used to power various spacecraft such as satellites. Vanguard I, a 1958 satellite, used a single-watt solar panel as a power source for radios. In the same year, Vanguard II and Explorer II used solar technology. In 1964, NASA’s Nimbus spacecraft was entirely powered by a 470-watt solar array.
Oil shortages during the 1970s: In a time of high inflation, America’s dependence on foreign energy resources was highlighted. Because we ran out of energy, we needed other sources. At the time, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof. This was done to increase awareness of clean energy and make a statement about solar energy‘s accessibility to the public. These panels were later removed by President Ronald Reagan, and President Barrack Obama requested that they be reinstalled with a solar water heater.
In 1973, the University of Delaware built the first solar residence. “Solar One” was its name. This system was intended to be a solar PV/thermal hybrid and allowed excess electricity for daytime use.
Increased conversion efficiency: Hoffman electronics was responsible for many innovations in photovoltaic technology, increasing conversion rates from 4% up to 14% between 1957 and 1960. In 1985, the University of South Wales increased this efficiency to 20%. In 1999, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and SpectroLab Inc. collaborated to create a solar cell that had a 33.3 percent efficiency. The University of South Wales reclaimed the title of most efficient solar cell with a 34.5% efficiency in 2016.
Solar Power in Today’s We World
The first commercially available solar array was made in 1956. However, at $300 per watt, it was prohibitively expensive for civilians. The cost of a solar array had dropped to $100 per watt by 1975. Since then, it has fallen at least 10% annually. Cost reduction is responsible for the rise in demand that resulted, as of 2016, in more than one million solar installations across the United States.
We hope this article has given you a lot of information about the history of solar energy. As well as how the history of Solar Energy shows how scientists and engineers have created and developed technological innovations in solar power.
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