The Evolution Of Solar Power
Modern solar power has only
been around for approximately 60 years. The discoveries that created the solar
cell occurred approximately 200 years ago. It is these discoveries concerning
the properties of conductivity as well as light that led to the development of
modern solar power.
The photovoltaic effect was
discovered by a French scientist named Edmond Becquerel in 1839. It is the
process of light being absorbed by a material and causing electrical voltage to
In 1873, the
photoconductivity of selenium was discovered by Willoughby Smith, an English
electrical engineer. This process made selenium electrically conductive and
able to absorb light. In 1876, Richard Evans Day and William Grylls Adams realized
selenium could produce electricity from light. It did not require any moving
parts or heat. This was proof that solar power could easily be harvested and
First Solar Cell
In 1883, Charles Fritts
created the first solar cell. A thin layer of gold was used to coat selenium.
It had an energy conversion rate between 1 and 2 percent. Modern solar cells
are between 15 and 20 percent.
The first photoelectric
effect observation took place in 1887 by a German physicist named Heinrich
Hertz. Light was used to free electrons from a solid surface and then utilized
to create power. Hertz discovered more power was produced with exposure to
ultraviolet light and not just visible light.
Commercial Production Of
Silicon Solar Cells
In 1953, Bell Laboratories
physicists realized silicon provides more efficiency than selenium. This led to
the creation of the first practical solar cell. It meant solar power could be
used to power electrical equipment. Western Electric started selling a
commercial license for Silicon PV technologies in 1956.
Solar Energy Used In Space
Solar energy had improved
its efficiency so much the government used it to provide power to space
exploration equipment. In 1958, the first solar-powered satellite began
orbiting the earth.
Research Decreases Costs
During the 1970s, Exxon
Corporation funded research able to create solar cells with cheaper materials
and lower-grade silicon. This reduced the cost from $100 per watt to as low as
$20 per watt.
First Solar Parks
The first solar power plant
or solar park was built in 1982 at Hesperia, California. It was able to produce
1 megawatt per hour when operating at full capacity. It could provide power for
a 100-kilowatt light bulb for approximately 10 hours and more. A second park
was ultimately built in Carrizo Plains, California.
Creation Of Retractable RV
In 1995, Thomas Faludy filed
a patent for a retractable awning that had solar cells integrated into it. It
provided a way for solar cells to be used with recreational vehicles.
Advancements in Photovoltaic
A new solar cell was
developed in 1994 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It was created
from gallium indium phosphide and gallium arsenide. The new cell had more than
30 percent conversion efficiency. This same laboratory ultimately created
thin-film solar cells that had 32 percent conversion efficiency.
DIY Solar Panels.
In 2005, DIY solar panels
started to be made available to consumers. They quickly became popular and
today there are many ways available to make solar panels.
Flexible Printed Solar
Solar cells as thin as paper
started being manufactured in 2015. They are rated at a 20 percent power
conversion efficiency. These strips are inexpensive to produce as well as
Discovery Of Sunless Solar
In 2016, a research team
from the Australian National University and the University of California in
Berkeley were able to discover new properties of nanomaterial. One of them was
magnetic hyperbolic dispersion. This refers to a material that when heated will
glow. This was combined with thermophotovoltaic cells and able to turn heat
into electricity without sunlight.
There have been significant
advances in solar power during the past 200 years. It started by observing the
properties of light and working to find a way to convert it into usable energy.
This technology continues to advance and is growing at an impressive rate.