By the year 2050, over 50 percent of the world’s energy is expected to come from renewable energy sources, such as solar.
But, how did we accomplish such a transformation in our energy system where we can hope for a cleaner energy future.
Of course, solar energy has undergone huge changes in the past few hundred years. Taking advantage of the power of the sun is nothing new.
In order to understand our present circumstances, we’ve got to consider how we arrived at this point. Check out below for the evolution of solar panel technologies over the years.
1. The Early Years
Many people think about solar technology as a relatively recent invention.
However, the origins of solar go back as far as the ancient Romans. Buildings were designed to take advantage of the natural light of the sun, such as giant windows.
As Octavian Caesar observed, “men of our day aim at having their winter rooms facing the falling sun.” He added, “because the setting sun renders the area warmer in the evening.”
The Romans were forced to consider alternative kinds of energy following the scarcity of timber.
2. The 19th Century
Not much changed after that. Solar power continued to be neglected as an energy resource.
That was until the discovery of the so-called “photovoltaic effect.” A Frenchman called Alexandre Edmond Becquerel was responsible for the discovery.
He noted that certain materials are able to generate electricity when they’re exposed to the sunshine. It wasn’t much of the leap from here to realize that electricity itself could be created from the light from the sun.
Over to the British scientist William Grylls Adams in 1876, who managed to figure out how to harness the power of the sun with photovoltaic technology.
However, Adams’ invention could not power much at all. It was only running at 1 percent while most of the energy was lost in the form of heat.
3. Mid-Twentieth Century
During the early 20th century the discoveries of the 19th century were largely overlooked.
The fossil fuels of gas, coal, and later, oil became the most important natural resources for energy during this period.
And yet, in 1941 an engineer called Russel Ohl developed silicon solar cells. He saw the potential of the technology. So, he patented it!
He also invented solar-powered batteries and semiconductors in the late 1940s and 1950s.
By the 1950s, solar panels arrived on the US market. The development of technology further led to a stable generation of up to 4 percent efficiency.
It was possible to purchase silicon solar cells for around $25 each. This equated to up to $1,785 per watt of electricity generated. That was absolutely unaffordable for many ordinary Americans.
And yet, the developments of the technology continued to grow rapidly. By 1960, solar panels could reach up to 14 percent efficiency.
4. The Seventies
The Watergate Scandal, the Vietnam War, and the Iranian Revolution were just a few of the major events of the decade.
And yet, quietly the solar energy industry was growing with the support of the US government.
As the environmentalist movement emerged and the oil crisis gripped the world, the government started to realize the need for alternative kind of energy.
Solar panels started to be used for everything from the navigation warning systems of offshore gas rigs to domestic appliances in remote regions.
This was also when the Solar Energy Research Institute was launched by the US government. The organization continues to fund research and development for solar.
By 1978, regulations and tax credits were put in place to incentivize corporations and consumers to go solar. By the end of the decade, solar panels were on the White House.
5. The Turn of the Century
As the turn of the century approached, solar panels continued to become more and more popular.
Photovoltaic cells, which were up to 16 percent of efficient were developed in 1992 by researchers. That represented a huge breakthrough! The panels were designed from cadmium telluride.
Just a couple of years later, 30 percent efficiency was achieved with the use of gallium arsenide and gallium indium phosphide. By the end of the 20th century, there were up to 1,000 megawatts of solar-generated electricity around the world.
By 2002, consumers were able to buy solar panels for their homes in up to 60 Home Depot stores across the US. The mass marketing of solar panels has only gone from strength to strength since.
Now solar energy is ubiquitous.
There has been a rapid decline in the cost of solar panels for consumers. In fact, over the past 40 years, the price of solar panels has dropped by roughly 99 percent.
This is largely thanks to the interventions of the US Federal government which has thrown its weight behind the technology.
And yet, there is still far to go. Despite the growth of solar, it barely accounts for 2 percent of the overall energy generation in the US.
From Powered Portable Solar to Roof-top solar panels, there are numerous options for the consumer to consider when selecting how to power their home.
The solar panel industry is growing at such a fast rate, investors are climbing over each other. There are so many emerging solar energy startups.
Solar Panel Technologies
It’s amazing how solar panels have evolved from ancient Rome to today’s technological society. We can expect the future to be bright for solar panels.
Do you want to adopt solar panel technologies for your business?
You may be interested to learn more about how to transform your business into an eco-friendly place to work with our blog post.