History of the Solar Panel
This history of the solar panel is in fact the history of a special reaction that takes place at the atomic level. This reaction is called the photovoltaic effect.
The discovery of the photovoltaic effect was first made in in 1839 by Edmund Bequerel, a French physicist. Edmund found that some materials would produce small amounts of electricity when he exposed them to light.
Albert Einstein carried on this work. In 1905 he described the nature of light in a a paper for which he later won a Nobel prize in physics. This paper explored the photovoltaic effect on which solar panel technology is based.
The first photovoltaic module was built in 1954 by Bell Laboratories. It was called as a solar battery and was mostly just a novelty because at the time as it was too expensive to gain mainstream use.
However, that changed in the 1960s, when the Space Race began. Satellites needed a reliable source of energy. Solar technology was perfect, as it was in constant supply to satellites in orbit.
The space industry put a lot of funds into developing solar panels. This was the first serious use of the solar technology.
Through the space programs, solar panels' reliability was proven. The cost of making solar cells also decreased. This was due to the large amounts already invested in making them more efficient and easily produced.
Solar energy got another boost during the energy crisis in the 1970s. When the price of power rose dramatically, photovoltaic started to be used for the first time in houses.
Since them solar panels have developed slowly. For a long time, they have been seen as 'alternative energy.' In this decade, a predicted shortage of oil and concern over global warming has again caused energy prices to rise.
Solar energy is starting to move into the mainstream. Large scale solar power plants are being built all over the world. There has been large investment from large companies, including oil moguls.
States, power companies and governments have introduced subsidies to encourage homeowners to invest in solar power for their home.
New types of solar panels have been developed: thin film solar, plant dye solar panels, and solar thermal. The goal to make solar energy comparable in cost with coal energy is getting nearer.
All this suggests that solar energy is here to stay.
For instance, a solar panel with a 15% efficiency will turn 15% of the sun energy it receives into electricity.