Solar energy history

Solar energy history is often assumed to be a very short history. After all, people believe, only now are renewable resources becoming a big deal. If people do know much about solar power, they often remember the 1970s energy crisis. This is often mistaken for the point in time when the first search for an alternative form of energy began. In truth, solar energy history extends much further back.

Sketchbooks belonging to Leonardo da Vinci show that he had been designing techniques to harness solar power during the fifteenth century. In the late 1830s, Edmond Becquerel published his findings on how light could be turned into energy. Of course, his findings were never really applied.

One might say that the true history of solar energy began in the 1860s when August Mouchet received funds from the French monarch to work on a new energy source. He created a solar-powered motor as well as a steam engine that worked off of solar energy. He even used energy from the sun to make ice! He did this by connecting his steam engine to a refrigeration device.

In the 1870s, William Adams used mirrors and the sun to power a steam engine. His design is still in use today. It is called the Power Tower Concept.

In 1883, Charles Fritz turned the rays of the sun into electricity with the first solar cell. In the later 1880s, Charles Tellier installed a solar energy system to heat the water in his house.

There were many people who were aware of the possibility of depleting our nonrenewable resources as early as the 1800s. Yet people still chose to use technological designs that ran on coal and other nonrenewable resources instead of the sun.

It was not until the 1950s that Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller, and Daryl Chaplin (of Bell Laboratories) discovered how well silicon worked as a semiconductor. Silicon is what solar cells and solar panels are generally made of today.

These are only a few of the stepping stones that make up the rich history of solar energy. Many other steps have been taken in the past which have led us to this point in solar energy history, where solar energy is no longer just a part of our history. Rather, solar energy is a major influence at present, which will only continue to be more so in the future.

In October of 1973, oil prices nearly doubled over night causing leaders to become desperate to find a way of reducing the dependence of foreign oil. In addition to increasing automobile fuel economy standards and diversifying energy sources, the U.S. government began investing a great deal in the solar electric cell that Bell Laboratories had produced with such assurance in 1953.