Overview – Historical foundations of solar energy

Solar energy is a natural and abundant form of power that is capable to providing electrical power or heat to businesses and homes. This form of energy has literally been in use for thousands of years and over the centuries it has been developed into one of the greatest forms of energy in use today.

Early Uses of Solar Energy

The Egyptians and Greeks were some of the first people to take advantage of the sun’s power. People in the past were aware of the fact that the sun provided heat and energy but many of them didn’t know how to harness this power. Over time people realized that certain materials that are good at reflecting light could be used to concentrate the sun’s rays to create fire or to provide light into dark places. Many ancient cultures used reflected sunlight to light torches for their religious ceremonies.

Early Experiments

Solar energy development and technology slowly crept alone for thousands of years up until the 18th century when an explorer named Sir John Herchel invented the world’s first solar collector to cook his food during his expeditions in Africa. A Scottish minister named Robert Stirling created an apparatus in 1816 known as the economizer which was concentrates solar energy to create electrical power. A French scientist named Edmond Becquerel discovered how electrical current could be generated from the sun when he was experimenting with two pieces of metal in 1839. Many other discoveries were made along the way that revealed the correlation between solar power and electricity.

First Solar Panels

The year 1954 proved to be the beginning of the modern solar panel. Two scientists Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Person develop the first solar cell at Bell Labs. The cell they developed was powerful enough to run small electrical appliances. A year later the company Western Electric began to sell licenses for photovoltaic technologies. In the mid fifties an architect named Frank Bridgers created the world’s first solar water heating building that used a passive design.

Major Breakthroughs in Solar Technology

Solar technology was used by NASA in the late 50s and throughout the 60s for satellites and ships. Through NASAs use of solar power technology on the newly emerging space program solar power technology began to rapidly grow. Before this time, the technology was struggling to find acceptance as a viable energy source. A company named the Sharp Corporation had succeeded in making the first solar panel modules during the 60s. In 1973 the University manages to build “Solar One” which is the world’s first residence powered by photovoltaic technology. Since that time solar energy has been marketed to many businesses and residences within the private sector.

Notable People within the Field of Solar Technology

There are a few people who have impacted the field of solar energy and they have previously been mentioned. Albert Einstein should also be regarded as a pioneer on solar development because he discussed the importance of photovoltaic power when he provided information on the theory of Relativity. Hans Tholstrup must be mentioned because he created and driven the first solar powered car. His effort helped to prove that solar energy can be a viable source of power for the transportation industry if it can be put into use. Solar energy as an alternative fuel source is steady gaining popularity within society and is expected to become one of the dominate forms of fuel within the future.