History Of Solar Energy Use Through Ages

Neolithic Carving

Neolithic Carving

From time immemorial to date Solar energy is used to dry food (for preservation), laundry etc…

This post looks at how the use of Solar energy evolved from ancient times to this day.

  • 7th century BC – Sun light and a lens used to make fire and burn ants.
  • 3rd century BC – Sun light and lenses used by Greeks and Egyptians to light torches for religious events.
  • 20 AD – Chinese document the usage of lens and Sun rays to light torches.
  • 1767 – Horace de Saussure a Swiss scientist builds the first solar cooker.
  • 1839 – Edmond Becquerel the French scientist discovers photo-voltaic effect.
  • 1860’s – August Mouchet a French mathematician suggests using Solar power to run steam engines feeling dismayed about his country’s dependence on coal!! He also received the first patent for a Solar device and was working on the same until 1880.
  • 1839-1883 – Photovoltaic effect pretty much stayed a curiosity of science.
  • 1883 – The American Charles Fritts creates the first prototype of a working solar cell coating selenium wafers with thin sheets of gold!! (Effectiveness less than 1% and not feasible economically)
  • 1891 – Clarence Kemp patents first Solar water heater.
  • 1918 – Jan Czochralski develops a way to grow single-crystal silicon (which helped in making silicon wafers)
  • 1932 – Audobert and Stora discover PV effect in Cadmium Sulfide (CdS).
  • 1946 – A ‘light sensitive device’ is patented by Russel Ohl.
  • 1954 – Bell Laboratory researchers accidentally discover while experimenting with semiconductors that a semiconductor of Silicon with trace impurities absorb visible quantities of light, thus making more efficient PV cells which convert Solar energy to Solar Power to run day to day electrical gadgets- Efficiency 4%.
  • 1955 – Hoffman Electronics manufacture the first commercial Solar PV cells. Efficiency 6-8% reaching 14% by 1960. Western Electric starts to cell commercial licenses for Silicon PV technology.
  • 1950’s – First commercial building with Solar water heating build by Architect Frank Bridgers. The first building has been razed but the second one built in 1956 Bridgers-Paxton Building, 213 Truman SE, Albuquerque is still functioning and is on the National Historic Registry.
  • 1963 – In Japan Sharp Corporation create a practical silicon PV module and Japan installs a 242-watt PV array on a light-house to make use of Solar energy to run the Light house.
  • 1964 – First Solar array powered satellite launched by NASA.
  • 1969 – Odeillo Solar furnace using an 8 story parabolic mirror set up in France.
  • 1970 -Thanks to Dr. Elliot Berman who works with Exxon Corp to design a more cost effective way to manufacture PV cells. Cost of Silicon PV cells drop considerably there by more cells start getting produced and used. Purposes: Traffic lights’, warning lights, Railroad warning signs, traffic signs, water pumps etc… in remote regions which were off grid, also used in offshore rigs.
  • 1972 – Cadmium Sulfide (CdS) PV system used to operate a Television in Niger by the French. Niger has more villages with solar powered lights still as they are remote and off grid.
  • 1978 – Southern Arizona’s Papago Indian Reservation becomes the first village to get fully powered by Solar energy. Now Solar energy is used to pump water only as the village is on the grid.
  • 1982 – Hisperia, California get the first PV Megawatt-scale Power station. Capacity 1-megawatt. Solar system developed by ARCO Solar.
  • 1982 – Solar One the 10 megawatt central-receiver demo project set up in Daggett California.
  • 1986 – Kramer Junction, California the world’s largest solar thermal facility is commissioned.
  • 1986 – First commercial thin film Solar Power module released by ARCO Solar.
  • 1998 – Solar shingles- a flexible state of the art roofing material is developed by Subhendu Mehta for converting Solar energy to electricity.
  • 1999 – Cumulative installed Solar energy generation worldwide utilizing PV cells reaches 1000 megawatts.
  • 2000 – World’s largest PV manufacturing plant opens in Perrysburg, Ohio Courtesy First Solar.
  • 2000 – The international Space station gets an array of 32,800 Solar cells.
  • 2000 – BP Solarex develops thin-film modules with 10.8% conversion rate breaking all previous records.
  • 2000 – A family of eight in Morrison, Colorado installs the largest residential Solar Power installation in the US. It is a 12 kilowatt Solar electric system.
  • 2001 – NASDA the National Space Development Agency of Japan announces plans to develop satellite based Solar power system which would beam back power to earth.
  • 2001 – British Petroleum (BP) and BP Solar open the first solar service station “BP Connect Store” in Indianapolis. This is going to be there model for long term development.
  • 2002 – 350 blue-signal LED lanterns powered by Solar cells installed by Union Pacific Railroad in North Platt Nebraska plant, the largest in the US.
  • 2002 – 38.7 kilowatt White bluffs Solar station goes online in Richland, Washington.
  • 2006 – Worldwide Solar Energy generation tops 1744 megawatts.
  • 2007 – Solar Energy generation tops 2826 mega watts. Germany accounts for 47%, Spain 23%, Japan and USA 8% each, Rest of Europe 6% and the remaining 6% rest of the world including India and China.
  • 2008 – Announcement of a contract between Abengoa Solar and Arizona Public Service Company (APS), the enormous solar plant called Solana will power up to 70,000 homes, and will be the first example in the country of a major utility getting the majority of its energy from solar. The 1900 acre plant will be completed by 2011.
  • 2008 – General Motors announced that its Zaragoza plant in Spain will be fitted with the world’s largest rooftop solar power station.
  • 2009 -President Obama says his $825 billion economic stimulus plan includes tens of billions of dollars to remake the country’s electricity industry into a greener enterprise.Obama said Monday that the plan would put 460,000 Americans to work on energy projects and double the amount of alternative energy produced over the next three years. In the short term, the plan would provide funds to “weatherize” 2 million homes by improving things such as insulation and leaky windows. The government also would improve the efficiency of 75 percent of federal buildings. (courtesy : www.npr.org )
  • The future –
  1. Buildings will be energy efficient, construction practices will focus on renewable energy, reducing carbon footprint and sustainability.
  2. PV cell research will continue to produce more efficient and even more cost effective (cheaper) Solar options.
  3. Solar Power Generating Stations will be one of the main stays of our power structure!

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Sources:

www.solarenergy.com

http://www1.eere.energy.gov

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