Solar Energy History

Goes Back Much Further Than You Might Think

Some people may be surprised at how long solar energy history runs. Most people think that the quest to harness the sun's energy began back in the 1960s and 1970s. However, the history of solar power goes back much further than that.

Who Discovered Solar Energy?

solar energy history davinci

The idea to use passive solar energy has been around for many centuries. Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks show that he was working on plans to harness solar energy back in the 1400s.

Modern solar energy research began back in the 1830s. It was in the latter part of that decade when Edmond Becquerel published research on how humans could convert light into energy. While his research never worked practically, it was an honest beginning.

Who Invented Solar Power?

The first established use of solar energy for practical purposes was in the 1860s when August Mouchet began working for the French monarchy on new sources of energy. He created several items that ran off of solar power including a solar powered motor, a solar powered steam engine, and a solar powered refrigeration device.

While much of Mouchet’s inventions are not in use today, his practical work provided many insights into how to harness the power of the sun for practical purposes.

The work of William Adams done between 1876 and 1878 provided the basis for the modern concept of the Power Tower. He invented a way to concentrate the energy collected by mirrors to power a steam engine.

solar energy history

In 1883, Charles Fritz was the first person in all of solar energy history to convert energy from the sun's rays into electricity. While the conversion rate was low, it was a breakthrough.

The first company to sell solar energy technology was the Solar Motor Co. formed in 1892. The company went out of business less than two decades later, but it was the first commercial venture into solar power.

Other ventures continued into the early part of the 20th century. Most did not meet with success. It was not until the 1950s that the next great breakthrough in solar power happened. In 1954, three inventors from Bell laboratories discovered the use of silicon as a semiconductor. The first commercial solar cell became available in 1956. That same technology works today in radios and toys.

solar energy history Solar energy research continued well into the latter part of the 20th century. More and more companies have invented new technology for harnessing the power of the sun. Costs have dropped significantly when compared to the first solar cells of the 1950s. This technology offers great hope for people in all parts of the world.

Who knows? Maybe you'll be part of solar energy history someday.

Find out more about the future of solar power.

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