When Was Solar Energy First Used? A Historical Guide to Solar


The first proper use of solar power was in the 17th century, when scientists and natural philosophers used the basic concepts of solar energy. However, in more recent times, the science behind solar power was fully grasped, and methods of harvesting light were understood.

The sun is the source of energy for our planet, and it has been for millions of years. We’ve known about solar energy for a long time, but we didn’t know how much of a part in our daily lives it would play in the future.

As the world’s population grows and the demand for energy increases, solar energy will become an increasingly important resource.

To learn more, we’ll take a look at when was solar energy first used and what we can expect from it in the future.

When Was Solar Energy First Used?

Grey house with solar panels
Photo by Vivint Solar on Unsplash

Solar technology has come a long way over the last few centuries. From the time of Ancient Greece to the early 20th century, scientists were trying to harness the power of the sun. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that they succeeded.

The 20TH century

The first large scale use of solar energy occurred in the 20th century. This was when the scientific study of solar power began in earnest.

1961 – US Air Force Developed a Solar Panel

In the early 1960s, the US Air Force developed a prototype solar cell and was the first to harness solar power for a specific application. The US Air Force used the cell to power a portable radio.

1970 – NASA Used Solar Energy for Propulsion

In 1969, NASA began developing an energy source to replace fossil fuels. They called it a “solar electric propulsion system.”

And in the early 1970s, NASA tested a solar-powered aircraft that flew for eight hours.

1977 – Apollo Spacecraft Used Solar Panels for Communication

In the 1970s, NASA made extensive use of solar panels. Onboard the Apollo spacecraft was a large panel array of photovoltaic cells. The panels were able to generate enough electricity for all of the systems on the spacecraft.

The cells were mounted in a specially designed box to avoid damage by cosmic radiation.

The solar panels were also used to communicate, allowing the crew to send and receive radio signals, and also used to recharge the batteries on the craft.

1987 – Solar Energy Became Mainstream as Photovoltaics (PV) Devices Were First Commercialized

In the 20th century, advances in materials science and semiconductor technology led to the creation of photovoltaic devices capable of producing large amounts of electricity.

In 1987, scientists and entrepreneurs first developed and demonstrated commercially viable photovoltaic systems that converted sunlight directly into electricity.

When Was the First Commercial Solar Power Plant Opened?

Solar panels and sky
Photo by MICHAEL WILSON on Unsplash

Solar energy has been around for millennia, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the industry really took off.

That’s when the first major commercial solar company, Solar Electric Light Fund, was founded. The company manufactured a series of solar panels and sold them to schools, businesses and other organizations.

Solar Electric Light Fund’s success was so great that a number of other companies started up. They were called the “early adopters,” as they were among the first to start commercializing solar energy.

One of the earliest companies to do so was a German company called Sonnenlicht. In 1978, they were the first to produce a commercially viable solar panel.

By the early 1980s, most of the leading manufacturers of solar panels had been founded.

Solar Energy Research Institute

The Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) was established in 2011, and the National Science Foundation funds it. In essence, it’s a national laboratory dedicated to carrying out research on solar energy.

Solar Photovoltaics

Solar photovoltaics (or PV) is the most common form of solar energy. This technology takes advantage of the fact that light (sunlight) is made up of electromagnetic energy, which can be converted into electrical energy.

Converting sunlight to electricity is done by means of photovoltaic cells, which are cells that use solar photons to create electricity. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity, but they cannot store this electricity. The generated electricity must be converted into usable energy, and this is done by using an electronic device.

Photovoltaic cells are the most popular type of solar cell, but they are also the most expensive. Photovoltaic cells are expensive because they require a large amount of clean solar energy to create a usable amount of electricity.

How Does It Work?

Roof with solar panels and snow
Photo by Ulrich Derboven on Unsplash

Converting sunlight to electricity is not a complicated process. In essence, it is just a matter of taking the sun’s energy and transferring it to a device that can use it. In the case of photovoltaic cells, this means using photons to generate electricity.

The first step in photovoltaic cells is the conversion of sunlight into photons. These photons then pass through a diode and get pushed onto a semiconductor, such as silicon. The semiconductor then absorbs the photons, and transforms them into electricity.

This process is called absorption. Solar photons are absorbed by semiconductors, and this process creates a quantum of electrons and holes. The quantum of electrons and holes then flow through a circuit to create current.

In most photovoltaic cells, the electricity created by this process is then used to charge a battery or power something else.

The Future of Solar Power

The future of solar power is bright. Over the past few decades, the cost of solar energy has dropped by more than 90%. While this may seem like a small figure, the cumulative drop of $100 billion means that the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic panels is now about 5% of the average price of electricity on the global market.

According to the International Energy Agency, by 2050, solar energy is expected to make up 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption, or roughly the same amount as today’s production from all sources of fossil fuels.

For more information, head over to https://blueravensolar.com/blog/whats-up-with-solar-in-2022/

The Bottom Line

We put together a detailed guide on when was solar energy first used and what can you expect from the future.

We’re starting to see a rise in the use of solar power for residential purposes. With prices dropping and solar technology improving, we’re now able to use solar power in a way that we never thought possible.

Thanks for reading! Please browse through the rest of our blog today for more informative articles.

Thanks to blueravensolar.com for consulting.


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