The History of Solar Energy

Solar energy is for everyone simply because the sun shines in every corner of the planet. In fact, the history of solar energy can be traced back to the Greeks that were then passed on to the Romans which marked the first people to ever use the passive solar design.

Passive solar design is a way to warm the home based on the dwelling’s design. They may not have had glass windows back then but their architecture made it possible for the people to use the sun’s rays to light and heat indoor spaces. As a result, there was no need to burn food that often which was in short supply.

In 1861, Auguste Mouchout invented the first active solar motor. Unfortunately, its expensive price made it impossible to produce commercially. Less than 20 years later, Charles Fritts invented solar cells which will later on be used to power homes, heaters, satellites and other devices today.

Since what he invented was very primitive, other people experimented on solar energy. One such person was Albert Einstein who won the Nobel Prize for physics in his research on the photoelectric effect which is a phenomenon associated with the generation of electricity through solar cells.

In 1953, Bell Laboratories, which we know today as AT&T labs developed the first silicon solar cell capable of generating a measurable electric current. Three years later, solar cells ran $300 per watt. With the Cold War and the Space Race on, this was used to power satellites and crafts.

But the biggest event in the development of solar energy occurred during the oil crisis of 1973. This prompted the US government to invest heavily in the solar electric cell that was developed by Bell Laboratories 20 years ago. 

By the 1990’s, research towards solar energy came to a standstill as the price of oil dropped in the world market. Funds were diverted elsewhere and the United States which was probably the leader in this form of alternative energy was soon surpassed by other nations mainly Germany and Japan.

In 2002 for example, Japan had installed 25,000 solar panels on rooftops. Because of that, the price of solar panels went down as the demand for it was on the rise. To date, solar energy is growing at a modest 30% per year.

Although there have been improvements in solar energy, its fundamentals are still the same. The sun’s rays are collected and then converted into electricity. Aside from powering homes or office buildings, the technology has been used to power aircraft, cars and boats.

Unfortunately, none of these have been made available yet for public use. We still rely heavily on oil for electricity, gasoline for our cars, fuel for planes and ships.

In fact, the US is one of the biggest oil users in the world. To prove a point, the department of Defense consumes 395,000 barrels per day because of the wars being fought right now in Afghanistan and Iraq which is almost the fuel consumption of an entire country like Greece.  This has to change because our oil reserves are almost depleted and many experts believe that global supply for these non-renewable resources will be gone before the end of the century. We have to do our share to push for renewable energy and one of them happens to be solar energy.

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