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Harnessing the Sun: An Abbreviated History of Solar Energy

Ever wonder when solar power “became a thing”? Solar technology has come a long way since the photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839 by French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel. The photovoltaic effect is the ability of a solar cell to convert sunlight into electricity. Becquerel spent years experimenting, but photovoltaic power was in its infancy and inefficient in producing energy, and solar cells were mainly used by scientists to measure light.

The development of solar cell technology began during the Industrial Revolution. In 1883, Charles Fritts, an inventor in New York, created the world’s first rooftop solar array. It was the forerunner of today’s solar panels, although its efficiency was less than one percent in converting solar radiation to energy. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, other inventors and scientists, including Albert Einstein, contributed to the science behind today’s solar energy industry.

In 1950, Bell Labs produced solar cells for space activities, and solar panels were used to power satellites and other spacecraft. In 1964, NASA’s Nimbus satellites revolutionized the study of the atmosphere, the weather, and other Earth systems. Nimbus satellites were powered entirely by a 470-watt solar energy system and were the first satellites to use solar panels that tracked the sun.

National interest in solar energy surged in the United States during the 1970s when high inflation and heavy reliance on foreign oil caused gas and oil shortages. The first solar residence was built by the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion in 1973 and in the later 1970s, President Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House.

Today, improvements and innovations in conversion efficiency have made solar cells more powerful than ever. Price reductions have made it possible for millions of people to install solar panels, take advantage of savings on their electric bills, and lessen their dependence on the grid.

Want to get a quote on solar for your home? Contact Ion Solar Pros today at 866-582-0000.


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