All life on earth benefits from the power of the sun, and through history we have found ways to capture its power for our benefits and comforts.
In the 7th Century BC we found a way to harness this power through a glass lens to start fire, and in some cases, use reflection off shields to start fires to enemy fleets.
In the 18th century the solar oven was invented, which is a technology still introduced to school children today. It was in the 19th century that photovoltaic effect was discovered and further experiments showed how they could deliver electricity.
In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein published a paper on the theory of photoelectric effect. In fact, after the theory was proven, he received a Nobel prize for that paper. In the mid 20th century the silicon solar cell was invented.
In the mid 1950’s solar cells were sold to the public in novelty items and toys, and later in the 1960’s the cells went to space. In the later part of that decade we began to see commercial uses of the panels on things like railroad crossings and remote dwellings.
Today the technology has made it very affordable to power our homes and businesses with the power of the sun. Early solar technology was not efficient or cost effective for the general public. But in the last decade, costs have gone down over 60% and efficiencies are up towards 90% (where it was at around 5% in the early 20th century).
What is next?
Some states are going for energy from 100% renewables, which will bring the costs down even lower and continued innovation will make them even more efficient.
How can you harness the sun and take advantage of this energy resource? Just think, we can now purchase an electric vehicle and plug it into our home that has its own power source on the roof. Are you ready?