History of Solar Energy Part Two

Welcome back to our history lesson concerning solar energy and solar panels in general.

We learned that French physicist, Edmond Becquerel, made an impressive discovery in 1839; while experimenting with a cell made from electrodes, Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect!

Skip to 1884 and that’s when inventor Charles Fritts installed the very first solar panels on a rooftop in New York City.

So, what happened next?

Only a few years had passed and in 1888, Edward Weston, another liked-minded inventor, received two solar cell patents: U.S. Patent 389,124 and 389,435. Weston said, in his words, he had wanted to “transform radiant energy derived from the sun into electrical energy, or through electrical energy into mechanical energy.” More and more people had caught on to the delights that the sun could beneficially provide.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, approximately 10 years later, Mr. Harry Reagan received patents as well; they were for thermal batteries – “structures used to store and release thermal energy.” That particular kind of battery was invented to not only collect, but store heat by having a large mass that can actually heat up then release the energy. “Systems today use this technology to generate electricity by conventional turbines,” Elizabeth Chu and D. Lawrence Tarazano state.

As time progressed and technology was perfected for the time being, the process of how light produced electricity wasn’t fully understood. According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER), Einstein wrote a paper on the topic, explaining photoelectric phenomena in 1905.

Now skip all the way to 1954. “The modern photovoltaic (PV) cell was developed by Bell Labs…and while solar power remained too costly for commercial use, the U.S. Military funded research for PV technology’s potential to power satellites in the 1950s” Matthew Sabas states. Thereafter, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory launched its first spacecraft to utilize the power of solar panels and NASA then launched its first satellite equipped with panels that, you guessed it, tracked the sun in 1964.

Solar energy – to this day – is a very big business.

The trick now, as you may have read, is to allow solar panels to “go to pasture”, if you will, in the best possible way! There are millions of miles of farmland that could be utilized as “green” spaces. The sky’s really the limit when it comes to what solar energy and solar panels can do for our future!