Evolution of Solar Technology

Evolution of Solar Technology

By Energy CIO Insights | Thursday, October 18, 2018

Solar technology that started on a small scale during the 20th century has evolved to a great extent, especially in the last two decades. Today, all new houses in California are mandated to implement solar technology. In fact, solar energy is on the right track to making a significant contribution to the world’s energy requirements and is predicted to grab up to 16 percent share by 2050.

Solar technology has surpassed several milestones as a part of the evolution process, thanks to the brilliance of the scientists working on the optimization of solar energy. Among these milestones, the first and foremost event that needs to be mentioned is the comprehensive research conducted by Edmond Becquerel during the 1830s that includes the earliest observation of the photoelectric effect. The discovery of how light could bolster electricity generation between two metal electrodes placed in a conductive solution inspired a number of scientists to develop technologies based on the element selenium.

Almost a century later, silicon solar cells were commercially made available in the early 50s. Although there were many significant developments after Becquerel’s breakthrough until the commercial sale of solar cells, what sets this commercialization apart is the way it boosted research and development in the field of solar technology. The extensive research led to scientists discovering how silicon was more efficient than selenium, thus enabling companies to power electrical equipment with solar energy.

Soon after silicon solar cells rose in popularity, space research organizations started leveraging solar technology to power space vehicles. The government chose to bank on solar energy to power its Vanguard 1 satellite in 1958, paving the way for more developments and breakthroughs in the future. Further investment in solar research during the 1970s resulted in a significant reduction in the cost of solar technology. Owing to the gas crisis during the same decade, companies needed an alternative way to generate power, and solar power was the answer. Since these companies started shelling out more funds for solar research, the cost of solar power that was approximately $100 per watt dropped significantly to $20-$40 per watt. The decreased cost boosted the use of solar technology in a number of industries, in turn, leading to technological improvements to meet the increasing demand.

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