The History of Solar Power

10 Jan 2018

Today, we use solar power for a wide array of activities—to power our devices and homes, and even to power spacecraft! The expansion of solar power continues to grow quickly and widely as more and more people and industries turn to it as a solution for a form of renewable energy.

However, just as Rome was not built in a day, neither did we reach this level of advancement in terms of solar power. Want to know everything that led to where we are today in the world of solar power? We’ve gathered a brief history of solar power here:

The Beginning of Solar Power

The rise of solar power and photovoltaic energy dates back to 1876. The story of solar power begins with William Grylls Adams, as well as his student Richard Day. He discovered that, in exposing selenium to light, electricity was produced. As an expert in electricity, Werner von Siemens called this discovery “scientifically of the most far-reaching importance.” These cells of selenium weren’t efficient, but they were significant in proving that without moving parts or heat, light could be transformed into a form of electricity.

Come 1953, Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin, and Gerald Pearson invented the solar cell made from silicon. This cell was actually able to produce enough electricity and worked with enough efficiency to power smaller electrical devices. The New York Times called this development “the beginning of a new era.” They claimed it would lead eventually to the realization of harnessing the nearly “limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

By 1956, solar cells would be commercially available. The cost, however, was far too high for most people’s budgets. Costing around $300 per single-watt solar cell, the expense was something hardly anyone could reasonably afford. It was in 1956 that solar cells appeared in radios and toys. These items were merely novelty and were the first items to feature solar cells in them and be available for consumers.

Taking Solar to the Stars

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, US and Soviet satellites in their space program were being powered using solar cells. By the late 1960s, solar power was basically the standard used in powering satellites headed for space.

Lowering the Cost of Solar Power

By the early 1970s, solar cells were able to be produced more inexpensively. This brought the price down to about one fifth what they were previously. This research was led by Exxon, and most off-shore oil rigs were using solar cells to fuel the lights atop them.

From 1970 to 1990, a lot of changes occurred in the use of solar cells. They started to crop up on railroad crossings, as well as in remote places, used to power homes. Australia was even using solar cells in the microwave towers. This was to expand their capabilities in telecommunication. Even desert regions saw the potential of solar power and used it to bring water to soil in places where power from lines was not available.

The Present and Future of Solar Power

Today, you can find solar cells in a huge number of locations. You may come across anything from solar powered cars to aircrafts. Now that solar cells are finally within a reasonable budget, the allure of solar power is stronger than ever! Today, solar has gone so far as to make screen printed cells possible. In addition, a new technology has recently been developed to create a solar fabric, which can be using in the siding of a house. Solar shingles can be installed on roofs, too!

Only time will tell what will come next, but one thing is for certain—solar power has come very far since its introduction, and it will only continue expanding into the future!

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