Solar energy and solar-powered products have grown in popularity in the last several decades. As our reliance on fossil fuels becomes more and more fragile, switching to solar energy has become more important. According to the Department of Energy, it is estimated that solar installations have grown about 17-fold since 2008. This is about the equivalent of 5.7 million homes. This quick guide will give you a brief history of solar power.
Early Use of Solar Power
It is hard to pinpoint when solar energy was first used because in reality solar energy has always been used. It warms crops and water naturally which is a form of solar energy. However, the first recorded intentional harvesting and use of solar energy is from the 7th century BC. We have historical evidence that humans were using concentrated sunlight to assist with lighting fires. The magnifying glass was used to focus the light and ignite combustible materials. Later on, it is recorded that the Greeks and The Romans used mirrors to light torches. These mirrors came to be known as burning mirrors. This was a very crude early way of harvesting solar energy.
Sunrooms are another early use for solar. These sunrooms would be utilized during the cooler months so that things such as bathing could be done in warm temps. Sunrooms are still popular today and used in many homes. Native American tribes also made use of solar energy by placing their homes in south-facing positions. This helps the homes stay warm.
In the 1700s and 1800s some innovators were successful at using solar energy to warm ovens. There were even records of early solar-powered steamboats as well.
The Advent of Solar Panels
Solar energy as we know it became useful with the invention of solar panels. Solar panel technology made it possible to harness solar power with more precision and direct that energy to specific uses. It is believed that Edmond Becquerel invented the first solar cell. This was called the photovoltaic effect and was used to increase electricity generation by placing two metal electrodes in a conducting solution.
This technology was further advanced in 1873 when Willoughby Smith made the discovery that selenium has photoconductive properties. Later this led to the discovery that when exposed to sunlight selenium actually creates electricity. This is the basis of solar panel technology.
Since these early innovations, solar energy technology has grown tremendously and revolutionized the way we interact with power. If you would like to learn more about our solar power solutions, please contact us today.