The History of Solar Panel Technology and How Far It’s Come

The History of Solar Panel Technology and How Far It’s Come

Solar panels are abundant at this stage and solar energy has established itself as the future of renewable power. However, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, solar panels and the exploration of solar energy have seen some of the greatest innovations in technology history.

In honor of that, we’re going to take you through a brief history of the technology behind solar panels and how we got to where we are today. Let’s dive in!

Solar Power in the 1800s

Although it may feel like a fairly recent invention, solar energy has been studied for centuries. The solar generators we know and love today are a result of many years of innovation and discovery. The story starts as far back as 1883 when a man named Charles Fritts created the very first ‘solar panel’ by coating a thin layer of selenium with a further thin layer of gold. This provided an electrical conversion efficiency of only 1%, but it laid the foundation for further incredible discoveries. 

Moving Into the 1900s

Despite the first solar panel being invented in 1883, a real push to advance our understanding of solar energy didn’t emerge until 1950. During this time, a group of scientists at Bell Laboratory began to study photovoltaic plates and how to use silicon to produce solar cells. It was a significant breakthrough, but once again, the electrical conversion efficiency was as low as 4%. Although this was four times superior to Fritts’ device, it still wasn’t considered significant.

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However, the US government saw the potential of solar energy and began to throw significant funding into it throughout the 60s and 70s. Although innovative leaps were made during this period, the technology produced remained much too expensive for mainstream consumption. The notion of at-home solar panels was a distant dream, until the turn of the century. 

Modern Revelations in the 2000s

Thanks to decades of continued development and innovation, solar power finally started to make its way into our homes in the 2000s. The development of silicon and similar photovoltaic materials meant that solar panels started to appear on the rooftops of domestic and commercial buildings alike, supplying ample energy through the power of the sun.

Solar energy has already exhibited the most rapid decline in cost among all modern energy technology. What was once a vastly expensive technology is only growing more affordable by the day, all thanks to incredible work by scientists across the globe. 

What Lies Ahead

Even experts in the field have been astounded by how quickly solar power has advanced, both in our understanding of it and its capabilities. Therefore, it’s hard to accurately predict where it will head next. All we know for sure is that it’s an exciting prospect, and will undoubtedly feature heavily in the pursuit of greener energy solutions. 

Solar Energy is the Future

It’s widely agreed that for a greener future, solar power is the way forward. What exactly that will look like is up for debate, but either way, we’re excited to find out.