Solar power is really taking off these days, with the technology becoming better and more affordable all the time. As we see solar power improving, it’s interesting to think about what it used to be like so we thought we’d take a look at solar panels through the ages so that we can see how we got to where we are today. After all, solar power has been around a lot longer than you might think! If you’re interested in learning more about solar technology or solar panels, have a chat with your local solar power
A Brief History of Solar Panels
While you may think that solar power is a relatively recent thing, it’s actually existed in a recognisable form since the mid 1800s. In 1839, the photovoltaic effect was discovered, and it is this that explains how electricity can be generated from sunlight. Of course it was very inefficient and for a long time, photovoltaic cells were primarily used to measure light. It wasn’t until more than a hundred years later in 1941 that the solar cell was invented. Of course, as the technology has improved since then, solar power as we know it just continues to become more efficient.
Earlier Solar Power Technologies
The solar panel technologies that have existed over the previous 15 to 20 years were inefficient and expensive. It was not until the mid 1990s that a solar cell was made that could exceed 30 percent conversion efficiency. The mid 1990s also saw a project that could store solar energy efficiently and economically, so that the sun did not need to be shining to be able to use solar power.
In the late 1990s to the early 2000s, thin film solar modules were being developed and improved all the time. It wasn’t until 2000 that thin film solar panels achieved 10.8 percent conversion efficiency, which was the highest of its kind at that time. 2001 saw solar panels being sold to residential American customers for the first time, and it’s just kept expanding since then.
Older solar panels were inefficient which meant that you had to use more of them in order to be able to produce the amount of power that you needed, taking up more roof space, and increasing the cost of solar power, so that only wealthy people could really afford it. In fact, older solar panel technologies were so cost inefficient that it was often cheaper NOT to install them!
Current Solar Power Technologies
Solar power technologies and especially solar panels have just kept improving in leaps and bounds and there is no sign of the innovation slowing. Researchers will continue to look at new designs, materials and methods of development to make solar panels even more efficient and affordable so that they become an ever more viable mainstream source of power, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. The cost of installation of solar panels will just become cheaper and it will become competitive with traditional sources of electricity in as little as ten years.