Energy costs are not getting cheaper. A recent rise in grid power costs have people and businesses searching for alternative sources. Since the center of our universe, the sun, provides the greatest energy source, it’s easy to see why solar energy is becoming increasingly more popular. The ability to harness the power of the sun didn’t just happen overnight. There is a long history of humans using the sun as energy. Read more on the history of solar energy.
You’ve probably learned in history that 7th century B.C. early humans used the sun to light fires by using glass as a magnifier. By the 3rd century B.C., Romans were harnessing solar power by using mirrors to light torches for religious ceremonies. They called these “burning mirrors.” The Chinese used mirrors in a similar fashion later on in 20 A.D.
Another use of early solar power that’s actually still popular in today’s times was the use of sunrooms in buildings. By having huge, massive windows that directed sunlight into one concentrated area, the sunrooms were the best place to go for warmth during the cold months. Roman bathhouses that were located on the southern facing sides of structures were sunrooms. Around 1200 A.D., the Anasazi Native Americans lived in south-facing homes situated on cliffs to capture the warmth of the sun during the winter months.
During long journeys, scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries successfully used sunlight to power ovens. Sunlight was also used to power steam boats. Clearly, even thousands of years before the invention of solar panels, people were familiar with trying to use the power of the sun for energy.
Willoughby Smith discovered in 1873 that selenium had photoconductive potential. This lead to William Grylls Adams’ and Richard Evans Day’s 1876 discovery that selenium creates electricity when exposed to sunlight. Werner von Siemens, an electricity expert of his time, believed the discovery was “scientifically of the most far-reaching importance”. Even though the selenium cells were not effective, it did prove that light could be converted into electricity. Then in 1883, Charles Fritts produced the first selenium wafer solar cells. Fritts is usually credited by historians as the inventory of solar power.
In 1953, the silicon solar cell was discovered by Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson. This cell was able to produce enough electricity to power small electrical devices. The New York Times declared that this was “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of harnessing the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”
Then in 1956, the first commercially available solar cells were on the market. The cost was too expensive for the average person of that time
. No one could really afford 1 watt solar cell for $300. But then, later in 1956, the first solar cells were used in radios and toys. These products were the first of their kind to be available to the everyday consumer.
By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, powered by solar cells, satellites in the USA’s and Soviet’s space program were launched. This became the standard among satellites.
A method to lower the cost of solar cells was discovered by Exxon in the 1970’s. The price was lowered from around $100 per watt to around $20 per watt. The warninglights on top of off-shore oil rigs were using solar cells for power.
From 1970’s to the 1990’s a huge change in the usage of solar cells was seen. Solar power started being used for railroad crossings, remote homes, telecommunication towers, and even in desert areas for solar water pumping.
In today’s world, we see solar cells just about everywhere. There are solar powered cars, solar homes, solar recreational vehicles, and even a solar powered aircraft. Since solar cells are becoming more affordable, solar power is now more popular than ever.
Businesses are finding solar power options to be a better alternative to grid power. If your company is interested in switching to solar energy, give Solar Lighting International a call at (803) 233-3461.