Thousands of years ago, humans harnessed the power of the sun to light fires. They also used mirrors to illuminate torches during religious ceremonies. Ancient Greeks built their homes with large windows and “sunrooms,” which were designed to let the sunlight in. Chinese civilization documented the use of mirrors in the early 20th century.

In the early 1860s, French mathematician August Mouchet began registering patents for solar-powered engines. His inventions, which included the first solar-powered printing press, received gold medals at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. The first solar-powered radio was introduced in 1956. It could operate in the day and night. In 1960, a car was introduced that had a rooftop solar panel. This was the beginning of the modern day use of solar energy.

In the late 19th century, discoveries included electricity, magnetism, and science of light. These discoveries laid the groundwork for the development of solar power. In the early 20th century, physicists like Albert Einstein studied the photoelectric effect, which is a process where light falls on a material, sets its electrons in motion, and produces an electric current. Click for more info!

In 1839, French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerellar discovered the photovoltaic effect, which is the process of turning sunlight into electricity. This effect was subsequently studied by Albert Einstein, who wrote a paper on the topic in 1905. He also received a Nobel Prize for his work on solar power in 1922.

After Becquerellar’s discoveries, other scientists started working on the topic. Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure designed the first solar cell in 1767. His cell could turn only 0.5% of the sun’s energy into electricity. The first commercial solar water heater was patented by Clarence Kemp in 1891. A few years later, the first solar-powered radio was introduced by General Electric. In the mid 1950s, a solar-powered telephone call was made.

In 1883, American inventor Charles Fritts built the world’s first rooftop solar array. His panels were made of selenium and gold and successfully produced an electric current. This invention was published in the American Journal of Science. The first solar panel was not very efficient. It only used 1% of the sun’s energy, which did not allow it to compete with Edison’s power plant. The US government supported the development of solar technology, and created the Solar Energy Research Institute to promote solar energy. In 1974, the government passed the Solar Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act, which mandated solar energy research, development, and demonstration.

By the mid-20th century, American researchers began producing silicon solar cells, which became the dominant type of solar panel. By the 1980s, solar energy became a mainstream option for homes. In the 1990s, the federal government began to invest more in solar energy research. It also began a campaign to make solar energy affordable. The federal government created tax incentives for solar users. The US government also began to experiment with solar PV cells on Earth orbiting satellites.

During the 1960s, the US military began researching solar power. They experimented with solar PV cells on Earth orbiting satellites, and by 1958, the Vanguard I spacecraft was powered by solar panels. In the 1960s, Hoffman solar cells became the main power source for orbiting satellites. In the 1970s, engineers developed silicon solar cells, which became cheaper to produce. In the 1980s, a large-scale solar farm was built in Hesperia, California. Continue reading about solar power!

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