Solar power may be enjoying a golden age of sorts right now, but the industry hasn’t always had it this good. Looking back, the history of commercial solar has had its struggles, especially considering the staying power of fossil fuels. Time to turn back the clock a bit and sneak a peek into how solar was before, how it’s doing now, and what we can look forward to in the future.
The History from humble beginnings
The need to develop solar technology arose when there was a perceived need for an alternative energy source to offset the apparent scarcity of coal sometime in the mid-1800s. Of course, coal didn’t really become scarce and in fact enjoyed immense supply and popularity along with petroleum-based products.
Charles Fritts was an American inventor who is credited with producing the first solar panels. That was in 1881. He was able to work on such a project after the discovery of the photovoltaic effect inspired him. His work would not be given the attention it deserved, however, because of the prevailing thought at the time which generally dismissed the viability of photovoltaics.
Albert Einstein played a pivotal role in helping solar get a bit more clout, after publishing his paper in 1905 discussing the photoelectric effect, including the way light manages to carry energy.
In the mid-1900s, we would see solar applications grow in scope and scale. Companies also developed new and improved materials that allowed solar to take the next step. Photovoltaic efficiency made a solid leap that made more ambitious projects and developments possible.
In 1966, NASA was able to deploy an orbiting satellite that was powered by a solar array—a 1-kilowatt one, at that. In 1973, we saw the first solar-powered building: Solar One, running on a hybrid setup featuring solar PV and solar thermal technology.
Mass adoption and viability
Thanks in large part to the history of solar resulting in it becoming more and more affordable in recent years. The solar power industry has seen adoption rates soar to all-time highs. Consumer demand from all sectors continues to grow. Increasing interest and investment in the industry allows for the development of better and more advanced processes and technologies.
We are now seeing solar energy be on equal footing—and sometimes even cheaper than—grid power. That has always been a breakthrough point for solar energy. Cost remains a barrier that needs to be lower if solar is going to be more widely available. But the popular adoption of solar in Baltimore homes only goes to show just how viable cheap solar technology is today.
The history and looking to the future
There’s a lot to be excited about in terms of the future of solar power. We’re already seeing a lot of the success in the industry translating into widespread awareness and adoption. Major players in the industry are still working to usher in continued evolution of the various technologies involved. This includes the solar panels themselves, systems as a whole, and even important supporting technologies such as batteries. They’re even trying to send out solar PV panels into space. This is in an attempt to beam energy from the sun’s rays straight to earth.
Coming from humble beginnings, and being able to enjoy a superb present and an incredibly bright future, solar power is clearly going to play an important role globally for many years to come.
At Renewable Energy Corporation we are happy to answer all your questions. We’ll provide all the information you need to decide whether you are ready to adopt solar for your Maryland, DC home. Learn more.