In 1979, during the energy crisis, President Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed at the White House — they were later removed by President Ronald Reagan and reinstalled by President Barack Obama. However, the history of solar panels stretches back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, perhaps even earlier.
Learn more about solar power history and how companies like Impact Solar, which provides residential solar panels in NJ, are making life more affordable for families and businesses every year.
Early Solar Power History
The history of solar heat dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt. Native Americans also designed cities for maximum sun exposure; they built their buildings facing south to take advantage of solar heat. Although ancient people didn’t have solar panels, they harnessed solar thermal energy through passive design, reducing the need for artificial heating or cooling throughout the day.
For example, the Greeks and Romans built porticos, a series of evenly spaced pillars to let in sunlight, heat, and fresh air. In Egypt, black tiled pools collected heat during the day, and pipes circulated this warm water to heat palaces at night. The development of solar energy became less passive in later centuries.
Turning Sunlight Into Electrical Energy
Much later, scientists learned to turn the sun’s power into an energy source. Solar power history took a giant leap in the 19th century when inventors turned the sun’s light into electrical energy. Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, discovered how to produce electricity by exposing conductive metals to light. Today, this is known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect. However, scientists didn’t fully understand what was happening until 1905. That’s when Albert Einstein described the physics behind liberating electrons from conductive metals.
Solar power history developed slowly after the initial discovery of solar PV. Building on the photovoltaic effect, Aleksandr Stoletov developed a solar cell in the late 1800s. In the 1950s, solar technology took a huge leap forward with the development of the silicon solar cell at Bell Labs.
Modern History of Solar Panels
Solar panels are made up of a series of solar cells. Modern solar energy maximizes light capture to make solar energy more efficient. Giant leaps in solar technology took place in the 1950s, with efficiency increasing by 14% in 1960 alone.
The space race created a demand for sustainable solar energy on rockets and spaceships. Investments poured into the solar industry, culminating in the first satellite, TelStar 1, which used state-of-the-art solar cells. However, solar energy wasn’t yet affordable for commercial applications.
Oil companies originally pushed for investment in sustainable energy. Exxon developed more affordable solar cells to promote the use of solar energy in the private sector, and the cost per watt fell by 80 percent. With rising oil prices and the cost of production for petroleum, there is an ongoing need for solar panels that produce electricity cheaply.
Here are some major highlights in the modern history of solar panels:
- 1981: First solar airplane
- 1982: First solar-powered cars
- 2005: Investment Tax Credit adopted in the United States
The history of solar panels continues to move at an energetic rate, with solar manufacturers developing technological improvements regularly. Additionally, solar energy prices drop about 10% every year.
Why Choose Impact Solar?
Impact Solar hopes to become an integral part of the history of solar panels in the United States. We are an industry leader offering 25-year workmanship warranties and 25-year manufacturing warranties on every solar panel we install. You can trust our technicians for rooftop solar panels that stand the test of time.
We provide exceptional customer service on every solar installation performed. Additionally, we offer solar panel snow guard and animal guard installations to protect your sensitive solar panels.
Contact Impact for excellent customer care and superior solar panel installation from a family-owned and operated company. We proudly serve homeowners in Haddonfield, NJ, and the surrounding communities.