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Exploring the History of Solar Technology

You may already know the primary talking points about solar energy. It’s a natural source of energy that can save money and boost efficiency. That said, you may not know where this technology comes from. Solar technology has been such an important discussion in recent years that it’s understandable if you forget where it originated.

Solar energy has a long legacy that continues to thrive today. Diving into the long journey of solar energy in our civilization is the perfect chance to showcase the resiliency of this technology. The use of solar energy goes back further than you may realize, so read on to explore the full history of solar technology.

Early Civilizations and Solar

When you see the term “solar technology,” you likely think about solar panels. This is modern tech, but it is far from being the first use of solar energy. After all, using solar energy involves simply taking advantage of the sun’s rays.

In the early days of human civilization, people could use the natural energy from the sun without complex electrical equipment. For example, people would engineer openings in buildings for optimal heating and cooling, not unlike what we do today. The Romans didn’t have heaters, but allowing the sun to shine into a room at the local bathhouse curated a wonderfully warm, naturally lit space for visitors.

Likewise, winters have always required heating to keep humans safe and warm, but heaters haven’t always been around. Using the natural heat of the sun’s rays during cold winters is a long-used technique for warming homes that people still utilize today.

Furthermore, natural light is a great aesthetic tool for homes and businesses, but it offers more functional benefits. The Romans weren’t worrying about energy bills back in the day. However, using their same solar practices today helps people rely less on electricity, pay less in energy bills, and run overall greener establishments and lifestyles.

So as is now clear, solar energy and its benefits to humans have been around for a long time, but when do solar panels enter the picture? Let’s dive into the origins of solar panels.

Solar Panels Arrive

Searching for the invention of the first solar panels takes us to the 1800s. However, pinpointing the origins of solar panels isn’t as easy as pointing to one specific day and scientist. Many discoveries over the years paved the way for modern solar technology to thrive. We have to look at the contributions from Edmond Becquerel, Willoughby Smith, William Grylls Adams, and Richard Evans Day. Let’s break down how these individuals led us to modern-day energy-efficient technology.

Solar in the 1800s

Let’s begin with Edmond Becquerel, whose contribution to solar panels’ origins led to the discovery of the photovoltaic effect. Homeowners and business owners preparing to install solar panels are likely familiar with the term photovoltaic because this effect is still how the titular technology functions.

The photovoltaic effect refers to technology producing voltage when exposed to sunlight. Although photovoltaic solar panels require sunlight to function, modern solar tech will still produce electricity on cold or dark days. Edmond Becquerel is the scientist who uncovered the photovoltaic effect all the way back in 1839.

A few decades later is when the next step in solar panel evolution, which is often credited to Willoughby Smith, took place. Smith is who typically earns the credit for discovering the photoconductivity of the element selenium.

This discovery closely intertwines with the roles of Richard Evans Day and William Grylls Adams. In 1976, a few years after Willoughby Smith found the photoconductive power of selenium, Adams and Day found this element has photovoltaic effects. Adams and Day led the way to the world learning that selenium will create electricity if you expose it to sunlight.

As you can see, all the pieces are coming together, but we have yet to pinpoint precisely when panel technology comes into the picture. Let’s take a look at the introduction of solar panels.

1900s and Onward

In 1954, Bell Labs began developing solar cells in a way that was practical and more reflective of modern technology. This wasn’t the first development of solar cells, but it was the most successful up until that point. Bell Labs discovered that involving silicon could efficiently harness the results of research in the 1800s. Using silicon in the design of photovoltaic cells helped scientists create an efficient way to produce electricity with UV rays. More specifically, this Bell Labs discovery clearly showed that photovoltaic cells could successfully power an electrical device.

However, homeowners didn’t start immediately installing solar panels in front of their homes the following day. It wasn’t until 1973 that solar panels became capable of powering an entire household. The first residence to receive full power from the sun goes by the name Solar One. It was originally built at the University of Delaware in 1973. This house was the first step in a long legacy of people using solar cells to power their homes with green energy.

Taking Advantage of Modern Tech

The many years of research and development we carefully covered above showcase how complex solar technology is. Solar energy has been advantageous to humanity for centuries. Thanks to the scientists mentioned above and other experts throughout time, modern solar panels help power households and businesses every day. Solar-powered buildings sustain all modern amenities, such as lights and computers, without hurting the environment.

As you can see, exploring the history of solar technology showcases how reliable this use of green energy is for households and businesses alike. Today, you can still rely on an open window with natural light coming through to naturally warm and illuminate a room. But now, solar panels provide anyone with a way to give their building access to an environmentally friendly power source.

Not only do these panels power a room, but they also power entire homes and businesses. Once you have an expert complete residential solar services at your home, you can see firsthand how effective the sun’s rays still are at keeping structures warm and efficient.

Exploring the History of Solar Technology

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