Recent spikes in energy costs have made many people turn to alternative sources such as solar and the wind. The sun happens to be one of the greatest natural sources of energy. It’s always just been a matter of learning how to harness this power and use it in the domestic setting. In that regard, there’s been explosive growth in the solar power industry over the last one decade. More and more companies have started manufacturing solar panels, as more homeowners around the world seek to utilise this renewable form of energy to minimise power bills and compensate for power outages. Below is a brief history of solar panels.
Solar power as we know it is less than 60 years old, but the inventions that led to it began up to 200 years ago. These were discoveries about conductivity and the properties of light that formed the knowledge base used in the making of modern panels. In 1876, an educator named William Grylls Adams together with a student of his discovered that Selenium produced electricity when exposed to light. This realization was a major breakthrough. Although selenium cells were later found not to be efficient, the discovery fostered the understanding that it was possible to actually convert light to electricity.
In 1953, a team of scientists namely Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson discovered the silicon solar cell. They realised that this cell produced enough electricity to run small electrical appliances. It also worked efficiently. This discovery was the beginning of a new era of modern solar cells.
The first commercially available solar cells were made in 1956. At that time, though, the cost was, however, more than most people could afford. A single watt solar cell went for $300. In the same year, however, the first solar cells used in radios and toys were also seen. These items were the first thing that had solar cells available to consumers. The late 1950s and ‘60s saw the launch of the U.S and Soviet space programs, both of which were powered by solar cells.
In 1970’s, manufacturers found a way to lower the cost of solar cells, bringing costs down from $100 to $20 for 1 watt. The research that led to this was spearheaded by Exxon. By this time, a lot of off-shore oil rigs were using solar cells to power the lights at the top of the rigs. Usage of solar cells increased dramatically between the ‘70s and the ‘90s. They were now utilised on railroad crossings, and in remote rural areas to power home. Australians were already using solar cells in microwave towers to extend their telecom capabilities.
Today, solar cells are available in a wide variety. There are solar powered cars, solar powered planes, etc. The cost of solar panels is now low enough for most people to afford them for use at home. Recently, new technology has made it possible for solar cells to be installed as roofing material. The industry has become mainstream, and solar energy prospects will only brighten in the future.