A Quick History of Solar Panels

Solar technology isn’t new. Its history spans from the 7th Century B.C. to today. We started out concentrating the sun’s heat with glass and mirrors to light fires. Today, we have everything from solar powered buildings to solar powered vehicles.

In 1839 Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect which explains how electricity can be generated from sunlight. He claimed that “shining light on an electrode submerged in a conductive solution would create an electric current.” However, even after much research and development, photovoltaic power continued to be very inefficient. People mainly used solar cells for the purpose of measuring light.

In 1884, the first solar array was constructed by Charles Fritts and installed on a rooftop in New York, producing approx 1% efficiency.

Charles Fritts NY Rooftop Solar Array circa 1884.


Many years later, in 1941, Russell Ohl invented the solar cell, shortly after the invention of the transistor.

1954 Photovoltaic technology is born when Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson develop the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell — the first solar cell capable of converting enough of the sun’s energy into power to run everyday electrical equipment.

Since then solar technology has evolved into what we see today. Who knows what the sun will power next?  


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