Solar energy is not a new invention. It has been around for thousands of years and continues to this day.

We started by concentrating the sun’s heat with glass and mirrors in order to create a firelight. Solar-powered buildings, as well as solar-powered cars, are now available.

In 1954, the United States’ Bell Laboratories develops a photovoltaic (PV) cell, which is the first solar cell capable of converting enough of the sun’s energy into electricity to run basic electrical gadgets.

Passive Solar

One of the oldest designs for solar energy is passive solar. This involves using the sun’s heat to warm a space without the use of mechanical or electrical devices.

The most common type of passive solar design is the solarium or sunroom.

A solarium

A solarium is a room with walls and a ceiling made mostly of glass. The glass lets in the sun’s heat and light, while the walls and ceiling help to keep the heat inside the room.

Solariums can be used as living spaces, offices, or greenhouses.

Related: Solarium vs. Sunroom (WHICH ONE OFFERS MORE VALUE?)

Solar water heater

Another type of passive solar design is the solar water heater. This type of system uses the sun’s heat to warm water that is stored in a tank.

The water is then used for showers, washing dishes, and other household tasks.

Solar water heaters can be used in both homes and businesses. They are often used in combination with other solar energy systems, such as solar photovoltaic panels or solar thermal collectors.

Active Solar

Active solar systems use the sun’s energy to power mechanical or electrical devices. The most common type of active solar system is the photovoltaic (PV) system.

A solar PV system converts sunlight into electricity by utilizing solar panels. Electricity can be utilized to power lights, appliances, and other electrical equipment in this manner. Both residences and businesses may benefit from PV installations.

Solar thermal collectors

Active solar systems come in a variety of forms. Another kind of active solar system is the solar thermal collector. This sort of system consumes sunlight to heat water or air.

The hot water or air can be used for space heating, domestic hot water, or industrial processes.

Solar thermal collectors can be used in both commercial and industrial applications.

The First Solar Cell

When were solar panels introduced?

In 1767, the world’s first “solar collector cell” was built. Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure constructed a box with three panes of glass and blackened iron wire that was covered on all sides.

In Switzerland, the device was positioned on a south-facing slope, absorbing solar heat.

The first solar cell was invented in 1876 by English astronomer Sir William Herschel.

Herschel discovered that when selenium, a grey metal, is exposed to sunlight it produces an electrical current. Herschel’s solar cell was very inefficient and only produced a tiny amount of electricity.

In 1954, American researchers Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson developed the first silicon solar cell.

The silicon solar cell was the first solar cell to convert a significant proportion of the sun’s energy into electricity, allowing it to power ordinary electrical gadgets.

PV cells are often used in combination with other solar energy technologies, such as solar thermal collectors and solar water heaters.

The Photovoltaic Effect

The term “photovoltaic effect” was first used in 1839 to describe a crucial development in the history of solar energy: the identification of the photovoltaic effect.

The photovoltaic effect was discovered by Edmund Bacquerel, a 19-year-old French researcher working in his father’s laboratory who was experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes immersed in an electrolyte.

Bacquerel found that when light shone on the electrodes, one electrode became positively charged and the other electrode became negatively charged.

This flow of charge between the two electrodes produced an electric current. Bacquerel’s discovery laid the foundation for the development of solar cells.

The First Solar PanelIn 1883, Charles Fritts, an American inventor, built the first working solar panel.

Fritts coated selenium with a thin layer of gold. When light shone on the solar cell, it produced a small amount of electricity. Fritts’ solar cell was less than 1% efficient.

The Search For A Solar-panel Efficiency Boost

Since then, scientists’ main objective has been to increase the efficiency of pv cells.

The efficiency of solar cells has improved significantly since 1888, when a Russian physicist by the name of Alexander Stoletov first discovered it.

Improvements in efficiency were needed to make solar power a more viable option for large-scale applications such as powering homes and businesses.

In 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect and the mechanism of light that produced carrier excitation. In 1921, he was given the Nobel Prize in physics for his efforts.

In response to Einstein’s findings, William J. Bailey created the Copper Collector in 1908.

The copper collector technique has now been improved by using copper insulation rather than cotton batting. The modern junction semiconductor solar cell was patented by Russell Ohl in 1946.

Solar PV Panels Today

By the year 1953, concern about Global Warming was starting to be addressed in the media.

The topic was covered by Time magazine and Popular Mechanics. People were becoming more conscious of fossil fuels’ depletion. A stronger alternative energy source was required.

In 1954, Daryl Chaplin, Gerald Pearson, and Calvin Souther Fuller of Bell Laboratories invented the first practical photovoltaic cell. In 1991, Daryl was part of a team that developed one of the first solar cars.

The Earth-orbiting satellite photovoltaic cells developed at US Signal Corps Laboratories were introduced a few years later.

Solar energy became an attractive option for powering homes and businesses in the 1970s.

The oil crisis of 1973 led to an increase in solar panel installations as people looked for ways to reduce their dependence on foreign oil.

The 1980s brought changes to the solar industry. The US government began to provide tax incentives for solar power, which helped to increase the popularity of solar panels. In 1982, the first megawatt-scale power plant was built in California.

The following year, the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant was constructed in Ontario, Canada.

The 1990s and early 2000s were marked by advances in solar cell technology. Newer, more efficient solar cells were developed, and the cost of manufacturing solar cells began to decrease.

In 2006, the world’s first utility-scale solar power plant was built in Nevada.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is currently the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant.

Solar power has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1839.

What started as a curiosity has become a major source of renewable energy that is powering homes and businesses all over the world.

The Future of Solar PV

Solar PV, on the other hand, may provide a quarter of global energy demand by the middle of the century.

Solar PV will become the second most common generation source after the wind in the next few decades.

To satisfy this demand, global capacity must grow to 18 times current levels by 2050 or more than 8 000 GW.

The cost of solar PV has decreased by 99% since 1977, making it one of the most rapidly improving technologies in history.

If this trend continues, solar PV will be cheaper than coal in just a few years.

PV is already the cheapest form of new electricity generation in an increasing number of countries and markets.

Solar power is a clean, renewable source of energy that has the potential to help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and combat climate change.


Does Bell Labs still make solar panels?

Bell Labs no longer exists as a company, but the research facility that created the first practical solar cell in 1954 is now part of Nokia.
Are solar farms powered by the sun?
Solar farms are usually powered by photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.

What is the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility?

Located in the Mojave desert in California, The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is a solar power plant that is currently the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world.
Will solar thermal power plants become a thing?
Solar thermal power plants are already a thing. They use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate heat, which is then used to power a turbine. Solar thermal power plants are different from photovoltaic power plants, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

What is the difference between solar PV and solar thermal?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, on the other hand, convert light into electricity, whereas solar thermal mirrors concentrate sunlight to produce heat. Solar thermal power plants use the heat generated to drive a turbine.

Do PV solar arrays work at night?

PV solar arrays do not work at night, but they can still generate electricity during the day. Solar PV panels are made of semiconductor materials that absorb photons from sunlight and convert them into electrons.

What type of storage battery is used for solar PV?

The type of battery that is used for solar PV depends on the application. For example, lead-acid batteries are often used for backup power, while lithium-ion batteries are used for grid-connected systems.

Is PV solar used for both roof and ground-mounted systems?

PV solar can be used for both roof and ground-mounted systems. Roof-mounted PV solar panels are often used in residential applications, while ground-mounted PV solar panels are typically used in utility-scale solar farms.

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Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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