The harnessing of solar power can seem like a recent technological development, but even its more modern history dates back to well over 200 years ago. We here at Plug It In Solar in Los Angeles find the history of solar power fascinating, and we’re delighted to bring you an informative, albeit abridged, timeline of this amazing technology.
First uses of solar power
Human attempts to utilize the sun’s energy go back nearly as long as recorded history itself.
● In 7th century B.C. sunlight was concentrated through magnifying glasses to make
lighting fires easier. Anyone who’s familiar with the old “rub 2 sticks together” method will appreciate what a life-changing discovery that must have been!
● Mediterranean civilizations in 3rd century B.C. used mirrors and the sun to light torches during religious ceremonies.
● Later, during the 18th and 19th centuries, inventions such as solar ovens on ships and sun-powered steamboats showed that humans had not given up in their quest to wield the sun’s mighty power.
While all of these early uses were novel and impressive given their time periods, the true scientific breakthroughs started being discovered in the mid-19th century.
Modern solar power
An unexpected byproduct in an experiment in 1839 laid the foundation for the technology utilized in modern solar panels. Here are a few of the big names and discoveries that advanced the technology throughout the years.
● Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel (1839). Becquerel found it curious that when the metals he was experimenting with were exposed to sunlight, an electrical current was formed. Although he couldn’t explain the phenomenon at the time, it eventually became known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’, which is what subsequent solar power research built upon.
● Charles Fritts (1883). Nearly 50 years later, American inventor Charles Fritts produced the first working selenium solar cell. He attempted to commercialize the cell to compete with coal power, and constructed the first rooftop solar array. Unfortunately the low-efficiency of these cells doomed them in the marketplace.
● Modern silicon solar cell developed. Scientists at the famous Bell Labs created the
first solar cell in 1954. In 1958, these cells were used to power functions on satellites
shot into space.
● Solar power plants are built. After decades of technological advancements, and
increased interest in solar due to the gas crisis of the 1970s, the first solar power plants were constructed throughout the mid-1980s in sun-rich locations such as California. This marked a monumental step toward bringing solar power to the masses.
● High-efficiency, low-cost residential solar arrays become widely available.
Recently, an energy revolution has been taking place. Factors such as climate change,
non-renewable resources becoming more expensive to extract, and increased
investment in the solar industry have made viable solar energy a reality.
A bright future
Since 2009, the cost of solar energy has dropped a whopping 86% ! Solar is now cheaper than coal, gas, and nuclear energy, and the global market is expected to continue to grow. The world’s solar energy capacity increased by nearly 30% last year and is showing no signs of slowing down. A future where clean, abundant solar energy provides for the majority of the world’s power needs is in reach.
Plug It In Solar in Van Nuys, California is committed to helping usher in this better future. Take the first step to make your home more environmentally friendly by calling us today at (818) 670-7769 . We’ll schedule you a free solar power assessment and walk-through to discuss the amazing possibilities.