The history and evolution of solar energy

The history and evolution of solar energy

Last Updated: September 16th, 2020 at 3:15 pm
Read Time: 3 Minutes

We tend to think of solar energy as the wave of the future, a plan for next generations to use renewable energy and save the planet. Solar energy is associated with moving away from the old and toward the new, with the eco-friendly green movement of very recent years.

We don’t tend to think much about the history or evolution of solar technology. New-age engineers and scientists have refined the process in high-tech labs, reducing the cost of solar energy to a point where millions are using it to power their homes. However, the use of solar cell technology is not a new phenomenon. It’s been in use for over 100 years.

The early days of solar energy


The history of solar cell technology dates back to the 1800s, when a scientist named Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel first observed a photovoltaic effect in a conductive solution when it was exposed to light. In the scientific community, it then became known that electricity could be created from sunlight.

A French mathematician, Augustin Mouchot, developed the first solar-powered engine in the 1860s. Then, in 1894, inventor Melvin L. Severy received the first-ever patent for a solar cell. The first-ever rooftop solar installation was created in New York City in 1884 by American inventor Charles Fritts. The evolution of solar energy continued from there, and was even studied by Albert Einstein.

Clearly, this was an exciting time for scientists and inventors studying how solar energy works. It seemed that there were endless possibilities on the horizon, that solar power could go on to fuel massive projects. These solar energy projects were developed early on as a response to the fear that coal, a main energy source, would become scarce. Except that never happened. By the early 1900s, coal and petroleum were widely available, and the utilization of solar energy fell by the wayside.

Solar power evolves

By the 1990s, there were growing concerns over global warming and climate change, while the price of oil began to rise significantly. It seemed that governments, businesses and individuals needed to seek out new power sources.

Ironically, the power source they turned to was the oldest in the book; the sun and the evolution of solar energy. The development of solar power and panels was most widely utilized by Europe, and then Asia. Since then, the trend has caught on worldwide.

Solar power today

Today, we’re able to screen print solar cells, create solar fabrics and install solar shingles and panels on rooftops. We are able to create solar farms, large swaths of land, often many acres, that are dedicated solely to hosting solar panels in order to generate clean energy. We are no longer afraid of a coal shortage, but rather aware of the damage it’s causing the environment and of the need to reduce our carbon footprint.

Solar power is now capable of powering homes, businesses, pools, electronic devices and even cars. Just as Mouchot first envisioned in the 1800s, solar power can be harnessed to power massive machines. Mouchot’s idea has now become a reality. In the United States alone, we have enough capacity to power 12 million homes by way of solar power. Since 2014, the cost of solar panels has decreased almost 50%, making solar energy affordable and readily available.

The future of solar power

Solar power is one of the world’s top three renewable energy sources, and as shown above, is only getting cheaper. It is among the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the United States, and employs more people than fossil fuel companies. Future plans for the solar industry include the creation of windows to harness the power of the sun for energy conversion, and the expansion to reach more homes, businesses, and items for daily use worldwide.

Consider adding solar-powered energy to your home or business today. Contact us online or call today at 800-765-2715 and move into the future.