The History Of Solar Power
By Will Reece
With the recent rise in energy costs many people
have been looking to alternative sources of energy. One of the
greatest energy sources (our sun) is readily available for the
taking. We just need to be able to harness it's power. For those
interested, below is a brief history of how solar power came to be.
The history of photovoltaic energy (aka. solar cells) started way
back in 1876. William Grylls Adams along with a student of his,
Richard Day, discovered that when selenium was exposed to light, it
produced electricity. An electricity expert, Werner von Siemens,
stated that the discovery was "scientifically of the most
far-reaching importance". The selenium cells were not efficient, but
it was proved that light, without heat or moving parts, could be
converted into electricity.
In 1953, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, and Daryl Chapin, discovered
the silicon solar cell. This cell actually produced enough
electricity and was efficient enough to run small electrical
devices. The New York Times stated that this discovery 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
The year is 1956, and the first solar cells are available
commercially. The cost however is far from the reach of everyday
people. At $300 for a 1 watt solar cell, the expense was far beyond
anyone's means. 1956 started showing us the first solar cells used
in toys and radios. These novelty items were the first item to have
solar cells available to consumers.
.In the late 1950's and early 1960's satellites in the USA's and
Soviet's space program were powered by solar cells and in the late
1960's solar power was basically the standard for powering space
In the early 1970's a way to lower to cost of solar cells was
discovered. This brought the price down from $100 per watt to around
$20 per watt. This research was spearheaded by Exxon. Most off-shore
oil rigs used the solar cells to power the waning lights on the top
of the rigs.
The period from the 1970's to the 1990's saw quite a change in the
usage of solar cells. They began showing up on railroad crossings,
in remote places to power homes, Australia used solar cells in their
microwave towers to expand their telecommunication capabilities.
Even desert regions saw solar power bring water to the soil where
line fed power was not an option!
Today we see solar cells in a wide variety of places. You may see
solar powered cars. There is even a solar powered aircraft that has
flown higher than any other aircraft with the exception of the
Blackbird. With the cost of solar cells well within everyone's
budget, solar power has never looked so tempting.
Recently new technology has given us screen printed solar cells, and
a solar fabric that can be used to side a house, even solar shingles
that install on our roofs. International markets have opened up and
solar panel manufacturers are now playing a key role in the solar
For more information regarding solar power, visit us online at
Will Reece runs
Fuelfromthesun.com along with other alternative energy sites.
The History of Wind Generated Power