History of Solar Energy

1767, First Solar Collector
In the year 1767 a Swiss scientist named Horace-Benedict de Saussure created the first solar collector – an insulated box covered with three layers of glass to absorb heat energy. Saussure’s box became widely known as the first solar oven, reaching temperatures of 230 degrees fahrenheit.

1839, Photovolataic Effect Defined
In 1839 a major milestone in the evolution of solar energy happened with the defining of the photovoltaic effect. A French scientist by the name Edmond Becquerel discovered this using two electrodes placed in an electrolyte. After exposing it to the light, electricity increased.

1873, Photo Conductivity of Selenium
In 1873, Willoughby Smith discovered photoconductivity of a material known as selenium. The discovery was to be further extended in 1876 when the same man discovered that selenium produces solar energy. Attempts were made to construct solar cells using selenium. The cell did not work out well but an important lesson was learned – that solid could convert light into electricity without heat or moving parts. The discovery laid a strong base for future developments in the history of solar power.

1883-1891 Light Discoveries and Solar Cells
During this time several inventions were made that contributed to the evolution of solar energy use. First in 1893 the first solar cell was introduced. The cell was to be wrapped with selenium wafers. Later in 1887 there was the discovery of the ultraviolet ray capacity to cause a spark jump between two electrodes. This was done by Heinrich Hertz. Later, in 1891 the first solar heater was created.

1908, Copper Collector
In 1908 William J. Baileys invented a copper collector which was constructed using copper coils and boxes. The copper collector was an improvement of the earlier done collector but the only difference was the use of copper insulation. The improvements of the invention are being used to manufacture today’s equipments.


1916, Photoelectric Effect
With Albert Einstein publishing a paper on photoelectric effect in 1905 still there was no experimental evidence about it. In 1916 a scientist known as Robert Millikan evidenced the photoelectric effect experimentally.

1947, Solar Popularity in the US
Following the Second World War, solar power equipment started being popular among many people in the USA. There was a huge demand of solar energy equipment.

1958, Solar Energy In Space
Solar power was used to power space exploration equipment such as satellites and space stations. This was the first commercial use of solar energy.

1959-1970, Efficiency of Solar Cells and Cost
During the period between 1959 and 1970 there was major discussion about the efficiency of solar cells and reduction of costs. Up to that time the efficiency of the solar cells was only 14% and was not comparable to the high cost of producing cells. However in the 1970′s, Exxon Corporation designed an efficient solar panel which was less costly to manufacture. This was a major milestone in the history of solar energy.

1977 Governments Embrace Solar Energy
In 1977 the US government embraced the use of solar energy by launching the Solar Energy Research Institute. Other governments across the world soon followed.

1981, Solar Powered Aircraft
In 1981, Paul Macready produced the first solar powered aircraft. The aircraft used more than 1600 cells, placed on its wings. The aircraft flew from France to England.

1982, Solar Powered Cars
In the year 1982 there was the development of the first solar powered cars in Australia.

1986-1999 Solar Power Plants
Evolution of large scale solar energy plants with advancement being made in each phase. By the year 1999 the largest plant was developed producing more than 20 kilowatts.

1999, Breakthroughs in Solar Cell Efficiency
The most efficient solar cell was developed, with a photovoltaic efficiency of 36 percent.

2008, Subsidy Reduction in Spain
Due to the global financial crisis in the year 2008, the Spanish government reduced subsidies on ongoing solar power production in the country. This had a negative effect on the industry across the world.

2010, Evergreen Solar and Solyndra Fail
Two leading solar companies failed. This was due to lack of market for their high technology produced products

2012, Record Breaking Solar Plants
The past few years have seen enormous investment in utility-scale solar plants, with records for the largest frequently being broken. As of 2012, the history’s largest solar energy plant is the Golmud Solar Park in China, with an installed capacity of 200 megawatts. This is arguably surpassed by India’s Gujarat Solar Park, a collection of solar farms scattered around the Gujarat region, boasting a combined installed capacity of 605 megawatts.


46 Comments

  1. nathan
    October 8, 2014, 12:09 am

    Who wrote this article?

  2. Er. B S Randhawa
    July 18, 2014, 10:20 am

    Great Information for us all ! Thank you …..

  3. marco
    June 15, 2014, 11:43 am

    this was so much help thanks heaps

  4. SKHUTHAZO THUSI
    June 9, 2014, 1:02 pm

    GREAT INFORMATION THIS WILL HELP ME A LOT ON MY GEOGRAPHY RESEARCH

    • elepo mbali msane
      August 27, 2014, 7:07 pm

      Good information and it really help me thnks a lot but i need more to finish my research

  5. Howard Mcintosh
    June 6, 2014, 7:35 pm

    Very good information. Here are my thoughts/questions. At this time our president has put forth a requirement to shut down/make more Efficent our fossil fuel electrical generation plants. I am all in for that. However, I think that due to the latest information concerning global warming and the latest information on the effects of carbon dioxide on our environment I think it is too little too late. I just saw that prior to the First World War there was an operational solar collector system that would and. Did produce steam to power an engine that generated electricity.WHY DON,T WE DO THAT?Answer OIL AND COAL BIG MONEY PROFITS. Is hard to believe that these people care more about money than their own children and grand children.

    • Hadrien Hadife
      July 3, 2014, 4:01 pm

      We do use that, some solar power plants focus light using mirrors at a single point which then heat water to produce steam which in turn makes a turbine spin and generate electricity.

      Clouds become a problem of course, but the technology will keep getting better.

  6. sandile sj chauke
    June 6, 2014, 4:04 pm

    thanks for the help

  7. Thebe
    May 5, 2014, 5:25 pm

    If this continue it wil be great

  8. tyler
    April 29, 2014, 12:48 pm

    great info! Thanks

  9. damjanović Tomislav
    April 27, 2014, 10:42 am

    When governments and politicians say that solar, wind, and tide generated enery is not cost effective, they are willingly protecting multi million dollar OPEC and nafta industry interests. Solar energy was first harnessed by a Swiss scientist in 1767 A.D.

  10. Brian
    April 26, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Nice information to have!

  11. Markus
    April 14, 2014, 12:07 am

    Helped a lot with my report, thank you!

  12. tagz
    April 5, 2014, 10:48 am

    great deal of info for my projects

  13. maximus
    December 4, 2013, 2:59 am

    this is some stuff to use for my homework thanks

  14. kameron
    October 31, 2013, 3:26 pm

    epic

  15. J
    October 22, 2013, 10:35 am

    it really helps !!!!!!!!!!! :)

  16. Lesedi Ramahlapi
    September 8, 2013, 8:33 pm

    Thank You very much with all the information you update us with..

  17. mosima
    July 31, 2013, 7:31 pm

    I got all the information I wanted and more. I am sure I will get the best marks because of your help. THANK YOU and keep informing us with the great information like this

  18. bemi etuwewe
    June 29, 2013, 8:12 am

    I will like updates on solar energy from time to time

  19. prince
    June 20, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Thanks for exploring Green Tech,Your information was very useful.Hope the whole world goes green with clean energy using clean technology.

  20. Zataija
    May 28, 2013, 10:49 pm

    This helped me a lot on my Solar Energy essay paper. Thank you!

  21. vashdev omani
    March 10, 2013, 4:47 am

    i kown energy in pakistan but take to be a time will still bild up thank you…………

  22. katte.jangaiah
    February 25, 2013, 12:44 pm

    i like to work in solar power generation or solar any product that’s enough for my life

  23. kanakaiah.k
    February 19, 2013, 3:50 pm

    I love solar energy . .

  24. zawedde sarah
    February 14, 2013, 2:54 pm

    I’ve liked people’s intelligence. praise be to the God who gave them the knowledge .
    Solar energy has become a subsidy to the poor countries like Uganda . this has come as a result of hydro power being expensive . What pains most is to have the source of river Nile in your country and you sleep in darkness. This has come as a result of governors being selfish by swindling government funds. Almighty help the needy in poor countries like Uganda to escape selfish leaders. In Jesus’ names I’ve prayed Aimen.

    Thanks , almighty God bless u.

  25. Ódhrán
    January 14, 2013, 10:34 pm

    thanks for this its really helped me with school thanks a lot

  26. VENKY
    January 13, 2013, 3:10 pm

    I THINK USING SOLAR ENERGY IS BEST OF RENEWABLE ENERGY BUT IT’S EQUIPMENT IS VERY COSTLY WHEN COMPARED TO OTHERS EVEN THOUGH LETS THINK IT WILL BE USED MORE BY PEOPLE &INDUSTRIES

  27. Erik Kerckhoff
    January 10, 2013, 5:22 pm

    I hope this is right because I’m using it for a project
    I’m parafraseing it of course

  28. BHUPIN
    December 27, 2012, 6:12 pm

    great information……..and lot of information..:)

  29. Melissa Young
    November 28, 2012, 2:20 pm

    When was this timeline made? And you did a good job.

  30. Mc. Donalds
    November 28, 2012, 12:24 am

    Great Info

  31. s.nandhakumar
    November 18, 2012, 11:19 am

    Very important news …………. I will sure few years all homes used for solar system……… Very low cost

    • Jonathan farris
      November 29, 2012, 4:56 pm

      No they will not

  32. MIKE BRYANT
    November 13, 2012, 6:47 pm

    IF SOLAR ENERGY WAS SO IMPORTANT , WHY HASNT THE IDIOTS IN WASHINGTON PUT THIS ON THE WHITE HOUSE TO CONSERVE ENERGY . I WHY NOW HAST THE PRESIDENTS HELPED FINANCE FULL POWER PLANTS TO INSTALL AND MAINYAINED THESSE SYSTEMS , . ALSO WHAT THE HECK IS THE MATTER WITH OUR PRIDE IN THE U.S. TO BUILD IT WITH QUALITY AGAIN . WE ARE BETTER THAN THE OTHER GUYS . ONCE WE WERE A INDUSTRAL MIGHTY NATION , WWHAT HAPPENED . OH I KNOW WE GOT LAZY LIKE WASHINGTON D.C. . GREAT INFO ON THE HISTORY . MIKES ANTIQUE RESTORATION

    • J J
      March 3, 2013, 4:12 am

      We’re not “better” than anyone else, you idiot. Learn to spell.

    • Trei
      May 15, 2013, 3:11 pm

      Dude…shut up

    • Richard McIver
      May 6, 2014, 11:54 pm

      Actually, there was. To my knowledge only, the Carter administration put pv solar
      on the white house roof to give support and the Regan administration took them down so a waste of efforts by politics in decision making.

    • SMW
      May 12, 2014, 7:55 pm

      Before the US spends any more of my tax money investing in large-scale solar energy, I’d like to know: 1) how does it impact weather change, and 2) how does it impact flora and fauna (including eagles, geese, birds)? Haven’t heard much about 1) and very little attention to 2) although saving turtles was enough to try and stop cattle ranching. I’m not a total pessimist, but these solar fields remind me of the “scorched earth” policies I heard about in my youth.

  33. Shenkuuz
    October 28, 2012, 6:49 pm

    Excellent piece of work.

  34. Shan Manju
    October 18, 2012, 7:11 pm

    Thanks for highlighting Gujarat’s solar power capacity. In fact it is only one place in Asia, where a 50MW solar power generation is happening in one place,Not only that, innovation is at its best in Gujarat. They have also installed canal top solar panels to save precious land and water. Hope this spices up your good article- Manju

  35. Rajeshwari
    October 11, 2012, 12:23 pm

    wonderful information

  36. ashley
    October 1, 2012, 4:18 pm

    i love solar energy and how it is taken center stage in this modern times ahhh how i LOVE SOLAR ENERGY

  37. Adetola
    September 19, 2012, 9:28 am

    It’s awesome how solar electricity is taken center stage in this modern times,I see it at as the future of energy for the world,apart from the sustainability and availability its clean and does not disrupt the ecosystem, It’s the beginning of the greatest times in science and technology.
    Will be happy if I can be sent information and updating on the happenings on solar
    Thank you.

  38. Provessor
    September 9, 2012, 8:17 am

    Great detail. Great information.

    • kavontaiharris
      February 7, 2014, 7:17 pm

      this gave me some great info for my project

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