The History of Solar Energy and Development of Solar Panels

Although photovoltaics (PV), which gave rise to the idea of solar energy, has a lengthy history, solar energy has found a vibrant and established place in today’s clean energy economy. It’s simple to forget that getting solar meant something entirely different even only 15 years ago given how much the cost of solar has dropped over the previous ten years. Let’s examine the history of silicon solar technology and travel back a few centuries to the beginnings of solar PV.

When Was Solar Energy First Used?

Theoretically, people have been utilising solar energy since the seventh century B.C., when it is recorded that they used materials from magnifying glasses to light fires with sunlight. The Greeks and Romans were known to use mirrors and solar energy later, in the third century B.C., to light torches for religious rites. The term “burning mirrors” was adopted to describe these mirrors as a common tool. Mirrors were used for the same purpose in Chinese culture as early as 20 A.D.

The idea of “sunrooms” in buildings was another early application of solar energy that is still widely used today. Large windows were employed in these sunrooms to focus sunlight in a single location. Some of the famous Roman bathhouses were sunrooms, which were often found on the south side of buildings. Ancestors of the Pueblo Native Americans known as the Anasazi settled in south-facing homes atop hills later in the 1200s A.D. to take advantage of the sun’s heat during the chilly winter time.

Scientists and researchers used sunlight successfully to power ovens for lengthy voyages in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They created solar-powered steamboats by harnessing the sun’s energy. In the end, it is evident that the idea of harnessing the energy of the sun was a regular practise even thousands of years before the period of solar panels.

When Were Solar Panels Invented?

Solar panel technology was developed periodically and with several contributions from different scientists. Naturally, there is considerable disagreement over the precise date of their creation and the inventor’s identity. Some claim that French physicist Edmond Becquerel, who discovered light could boost energy output when two metal electrodes were inserted into a conducting solution, is responsible for the discovery of the solar cell. This innovation, known as the “photovoltaic effect,” had an impact on following selenium-based PV technologies.

Willoughby Smith identified the photoconductive potential of selenium in 1873, which paved the way for William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day to identify the photoelectric effect of selenium in 1876. Some historians attribute the development of solar cells to Charles Fritts since he created the first solar cells using selenium wafers a few years later, in 1883.

However, silicon, not selenium, is used to create solar cells as we know them today. Therefore, some believe that Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller, and Daryl Chapin’s development of the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell at Bell Labs in 1954 is responsible for the genuine invention of solar panels. Because it was the first demonstration of solar technology that could genuinely run an electric device for a number of hours throughout the day, many contend that this event represents the true invention of PV technology. The efficacy of the first silicon-based solar cell was only 4%, which is less than a fourth of what contemporary cells can achieve.

Major Events in the History of Solar Energy

We’ll explore some of the biggest events that have occurred in the history of solar energy:

Solar Panels in Outer Space

In fact, some of the earliest applications of solar technology were for satellite powering in space. The radios on the Vanguard I satellite in 1958 were powered by a small one-watt panel. Later that same year, PV technology was included in the launch vehicles for Vanguard II, Explorer III, and Sputnik-3. The first Nimbus spacecraft, a satellite that could run fully on a 470-watt solar array, was launched by NASA in 1964. A one-kilowatt array was used by NASA to launch the first orbiting astronomical observatory in the world in 1966.

First Solar Residence

The University of Delaware was in charge of erecting “Solar One,” the first solar-powered building, in 1973. A combination of solar thermal and solar PV energy was used to power the system. The array used solar incorporated into the rooftop rather than solar panels, comparable to the concept of Tesla’s new roof product, making it the first example of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).

Achievements in Solar Conversion Efficiency

Hoffman Electronics achieved a lot of advances in photovoltaic efficiency between 1957 and 1960, raising the record from 8% to 14%. The next significant accomplishment came in 1985 when silicon cells at the University of South Wales were 20% efficient. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and SpectroLab Inc. worked together in 1999 to develop a solar cell with a 33.3% efficiency. When researchers at the University of South Wales achieved 34.5% efficiency in 2016, they once again broke the previous mark.

Solar-Powered Airplanes

The first solar-powered aircraft, Solar Challenger, was created by Paul MacCready and flown from France to the United Kingdom in 1981. Pathfinder, a remote-controlled solar aircraft, achieved an altitude record in 1998 after ascending to 80,000 feet. When NASA’s non-rocket aircraft reached 96,000 feet in 2001, they smashed that record. The largest and most potent solar-powered aircraft in existence at the time, Solar Impulse 2, was used by Bertrand Piccard to perform the first emissions-free round-the-world journey in 2016.

Cost of Solar Over Time

Over the past few decades, the cost of solar panels has decreased significantly, spurring an increase in customer demand. The declining price of solar is largely to blame for solar’s rising appeal and the legitimacy of PV as a trustworthy energy source in today’s society.

Present-Day Solar Installation is Easy with Bright Energy

Whatever the reason you find solar power appealing for, solar has a rich and interesting history that has contributed to its advent to current relevance. In the modern era, solar has a wide range of forms of usage that cut across several industries and provide power for thousands of different devices and technology. Through Bright Energy, installing solar panels is simpler than ever today! Try our Solar Calculator to obtain a quick estimate for a solar installation and the energy savings you could produce to find out just how much solar can save you. Get in touch with our solar specialists if you’re prepared to launch your solar project and achieve energy independence, and we’ll identify the ideal solar option for you.

The Future of Solar Energy

Even in the field, the rate of advancement of solar energy is astounding, and it currently appears that solar energy will play a significant role in the continuing energy revolution. For the past ten years, the global PV sector has grown at an average compound annual rate of greater than 35%, according to the Solar Energy Industry Data (SEIA). There is no doubt that as the world’s energy mix shifts toward renewable sources, PV installations will increase.

The relative contribution of the panel cost to the total PV system cost decreased as a result of the panels’ rise in module power from 250 W to 500 W over the past ten years. It will take a while for other technologies of solar cells to overtake silicon solar cells as the industry leader.

One of the main problems is to lower costs and increase efficiency; this can be overcome by developing new, more affordable production processes for silicon wafer solar modules that are competitive in the market. This standardised sector, which focuses on crystalline Silicon-based PV technology, has a high learning curve and is well-positioned to handle the challenge of producing several terawatts of power. The theoretical capacity of single-junction solar cells is also being reached.

Tandem technologies may ultimately be able to solve this issue, but extensive research is still needed to make this technology accessible to the general public at reasonable cost. In light of the fact that this technology is more than 50 years old, additional study and development are required to navigate the many potential outcomes.

End Note from Bright Energy

In the end, there is no crystal ball to accurately say what the future holds and this reduces all of our estimates and understandings to mere speculations and predictions. No matter how the solar energy is evolved in the future, we can assure you that you will see Bright Energy spearheading the introduction and the distribution of the latest solar tech in Pakistan.

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