The History of Solar Power
While it might seem like it, solar power isn’t new technology. The use of solar power has a long history, spanning from the 7th Century B.C. to today. The Greeks, Romans, and Chinese all started out harnessing the sun’s heat with glass and mirrors to light fires.
The history of photovoltaic energy (aka. solar cells) started back in 1876.
William Adams discovered that selenium, a chemical element, produced electricity when it was exposed to light. The selenium cells were not efficient, but they proved that light, without heat or moving parts, can be converted into electricity.
In 1953, the first silicon solar cell was discovered.
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.”
The problem was that nobody in that era could afford solar – the cost of solar was too high.
The first solar cells were made available commercially in 1956, but were way too expensive! A one watt solar cell, was far beyond anyone’s means, and cost up to $300!
In the early 1970’s a way to lower the cost of solar cells was finally discovered.
This research was led by Exxon and helped bring the price down from $100 per watt to around $20 per watt. And the prices continued to drop…
A generation ago, the cost of solar panels was so great that it cost roughly 100 times more to produce one kilowatt of energy from solar power than it does today.
Question: If the cost of solar is dropping, shouldn’t we wait to install?
While equipment costs and soft costs (installation, permitting, operations, maintenance) will continue to fall, favorable rebates and tax incentives are set to expire soon. This means today may be your chance to get the best deal on solar panels for your home.
Other notable solar milestones…
- 1977 – President Jimmy Carter installs solar panels on the White House.
- 1983 – World PV production reaches 21.3 megawatts.
- 1994 – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory creates a solar cell that was more than 30% efficient.
- 1999 – World PV production reaches 1000 megawatts.
- 2004 – New Jersey adopts a program promoting the use of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC).
- 2005 – The Energy Policy Act is passed, including the 30% investment tax credit for installing new solar systems.
- 2016 – The U.S. solar market is on pace to nearly double in size in 2016.
Update: August 29th, 2016
The U.S. installed 1,665 megawatts (MW) of solar PV in Q1 2016 to reach 29.3 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 5.7 million American homes.
There are now more than 1 million operating solar PV installations in the U.S. (90% of these projects came on-line during this decade alone). Source: SEIA
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We work as your solar and green energy advocate to determine if your home qualifies for solar and find the absolute best program and technology for MAXIMUM savings. To see if your home qualifies for solar, call 856-809-2744.