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History of Solar Energy

Understanding the History of Solar Panels 

 

Solar energy is often looked at as a new, modern-day invention and some are skeptical of the longevity of solar energy’s power. This is an immense misconception because the fact of the matter is that solar energy has been around for a long time and the evolution of solar technology is working to ensure that it will continue to stay around for an even longer time.   

 

This misconception is largely due to the rapid increase in the popularity of solar energy. With solar on such a relentless upsurge in growth, many people have focused ahead on the future instead of looking back at the history of solar that got us to where we are today.  

 

It is important to gain a better understanding of the extensive history of solar energy in order to see how it has been used to the benefit of humanity for centuries and get a glimpse into the future of solar. The history of solar is full of innovation and progress due to the persistent human pursuit that we continue to see the effects of today.  

 

Timeline of Solar Energy Evolution 

 

Solar energy’s history dates all the way back to the 7th century B.C. when humans used sunlight to light fires with magnifying glasses. It was used once again in the 3rd century B.C. when Greeks and Romans used mirrors to light torches for religious ceremonies. These were given the name “burning mirrors” and used in Chinese culture as well in 20 A.D.  

 

Another early use of harnessing the sun’s power was the use of sunrooms. These were quite similar to sunrooms that we see in modern-day homes. They had big windows to let in direct light and capture the sun’s warmth during cold winter nights in Roman Bathhouses and then again later in 1200 A.D. by Anasazi Native Americans. 

 

While these early inventions didn’t have quite the same level of advanced technology that we use in today’s solar panels and energy systems, they show how the concept of using the sun for power has been a common practice over the decades.  

 

It wasn’t until 1839 that physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerellar first discovered the ability of a solar cell to convert sunlight into electricity through a process using photovoltaic technology that we still utilize for solar energy today.  

 

Albert Einstein later helped cast more light and understanding on how this process of the photoelectric effect worked in the paper he wrote in 1905 that went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize.  

 

The only difference between these solar cells and the ones we utilize today is that they were made with selenium. We use silicon in our solar cells today, this change first occurred in 1954 when three scientists at Bell Labs first used silicon solar technology to power an electric device for several hours. Silicon was more advantageous because of its availability as a natural resource with better efficiency.  

 

The government began to push for the use of solar panels in the 1950s and 60s. They used solar energy to power various parts of spacecraft and satellites such as the Vanguard I and II, Explorer III and Sputnik-3.  

 

In 1973 America experienced an energy crisis that made the government push for the move to developing solar energy. They created and passed several bills that encouraged the use of solar energy as a solution to the energy crisis. The overall goal was to coordinate the effort of making solar viable and affordable for the public.  

 

The bills failed to increase America’s use of solar power because many thought it was geared toward the wealthy and ineffective. Despite this, the tax incentives and bills stayed in place until the early 2000s when a second push for solar came as a result of the decline in domestic oil.  

 

This brought about more funding for solar energy efforts and extended massive new subsidies to the solar industry up until 2009. The Obama administration funneled more money into the Department of Energy’s section to get this initiative going and prevent reliance on foreign nation’s oil resources.  

 

This history shows how humans have relied on solar energy for almost all of history. Many different inventions resulted from the use of solar energy and will continue to in the future. Government funding had a big impact on the popularity of this rapidly growing.  

 

With each new invention, solar energy made a step forward in improving solar technology and reducing the cost to get it to where it is today. Dedicated scientists and engineers paved the way for what is now the leading source of clean, low-cost electricity in our nation.  

 

Predictions for the Future of Solar Energy  

 

Solar energy has a long list of uses in today’s day and age. It is useful across all industries and provides power to homes and businesses across the nation. Solar energy has made up a large part of our past as a country and will continue to do so moving forward, it is here to stay.  

 

Moving forward, solar energy is likely to continue to grow in popularity as more and more learn about the benefits of sustainable energy and receive estimates on solar installation along with the energy savings you generate. Contact us today for information on how solar energy can become a part of your future.  

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