Categories: Solar Energy

History of Solar Energy

Welcome! Here I’ll give you a brief history of solar energy as it has developed throughout the years, starting back in 1767!

If you want to know more about solar, browse my other articles about solar:

Albert Einstein published a paper on the Photoelectric Effect in 1905.

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.

This post was last modified on April 5, 2019 8:38 pm

Share
expgreen

We aim to clearly explain topics of green energy, sustainability, and smart resource use, to help you make wise decisions and generally be informed. If you like what we do, please leave a comment, or follow us on Facebook. If you have an idea for an article, or you'd like to publish an article here, please let me know.

View Comments

  • 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.

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

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Solar power is a great way to save money on power bills. For instance, I had a solar water haeetr installed for my pool. It uses the sun's energy to keep my pool heated throughout the day, even during the winter. It's really nice having a warm pool to jump into, even during the winter when it's cooler.But anyways, I installed the solar water haeetr myself. It's fairly easy, and the trick is to find a good deal on the equipment. However, once you have the right equipment, you'll need to find the right solar power information. Awhile back I found some good books that will help you with your solar projects. It's been extremely helpful for me, so I hope it works out for you too, especially if you're looking to try and save some money from your power bill. Check out the sources section below.

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