The History Of Solar Energy

Solar technology is not new, actually, it started long from the 7th Century B.C. to today. In that period humans started out concentrating the sun’s heat with glass and mirrors to light fires.

In today’s society, we use solar energy for everything, from powering buildings, powering vehicles, heating steam for production, and heating water for households, the use of solar energy is endless. Today I am going to share with you the history of solar energy from the 7th-century bc to today.

The History Of Solar Energy from the 7th Century B.C. to the 1200s A.D

7th Century B.C.

Around the 7th century before our era, human beings used Magnifying glass used to concentrate the sun’s rays to make fire and to burn ants.

3rd Century B.C.

Greeks and Romans use burning mirrors to light torches for religious purposes, this is the period many societies start to worship the sun.

2nd Century B.C.

As early as 212 BC, the Greek physicist and mathematician, Archimedes, used the reflective properties of bronze shields to focus sunlight and to set fire to wooden ships from the Roman Empire which were besieging Syracuse.

20 A.D.

Chinese document use of burning mirrors to light torches for religious purposes.

1st to 4th Century A.D.

The famous Roman bathhouses in the first to fourth centuries A.D. had large south-facing windows to let in the sun’s warmth. 

6th Century A.D.

Sunrooms on houses and public buildings were so common that the Justinian Code initiated “sun rights” to ensure individual access to the sun.

1200s A.D.

Ancestors of Pueblo people called Anasazi in North America live in south-facing cliff dwellings that capture the winter sun.

The History Of Solar Energy from 1767 to 1891.


Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure was credited with building the world’s first solar collector, later used by Sir John Herschel to cook food during his South Africa expedition in the 1830s.


Robert Stirling built heat engines in his home workshop. This engine was later used in the dish/Stirling system, a solar thermal electric technology that concentrates the sun’s thermal energy in order to produce power.


French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovers the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes placed in an electrically conducting solution—electricity generation increased when exposed to light.

The 1860s

French mathematician August Mouchet proposed an idea for solar-powered steam engines.


Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductivity of selenium.


William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day discover that selenium produces electricity when exposed to light.


Samuel P. Langley discovers that when radiation falls on the wire, it becomes very slightly warmer. This increases the electrical resistance of the wire.


Charles Fritts, an American inventor, described the first solar cells made from selenium wafers.


Heinrich Hertz discovered that ultraviolet light altered the lowest voltage capable of causing a spark to jump between two metal electrodes.


Baltimore inventor Clarence Kemp patented the first commercial solar water heater. 

The History Of Solar Energy in the 1900s.


Wilhelm Hallwachs discovered that a combination of copper and cuprous oxide is photosensitive.


Albert Einstein published his paper on the photoelectric effect (along with a
paper on his theory of relativity).


William J. Bailey of the Carnegie Steel Company invents a solar collector with copper coils and an insulated box.


The existence of a barrier layer in photovoltaic devices was noted.


Robert Millikan provided experimental proof of the photoelectric effect.


Polish scientist Jan Czochralski developed a way to grow single-crystal silicon.


Albert Einstein wins the Nobel Prize for his theories (1904 research and technical paper) explaining the photoelectric effect.


Audobert and Stora discover the photovoltaic effect in cadmium sulfide (CdS).


Dr. Dan Trivich, Wayne State University, makes the first theoretical calculations of the efficiencies of various materials of different bandgap widths based on the spectrum of the sun.


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


Western Electric began to sell commercial licenses for silicon photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

The Mid-1950s

Architect Frank Bridgers designed the world’s first commercial office building
using solar water heating and passive design. 


William Cherry, U.S. Signal Corps Laboratories, approaches RCA Labs’ Paul Rappaport and Joseph Loferski about developing photovoltaic cells for proposed orbiting Earth satellites.


Hoffman Electronics achieved 8% efficient photovoltaic cells.


Worldwide photovoltaic production exceeds 21.3 megawatts, with sales of more than $250 million.


The world’s largest solar thermal facility, located in Kramer Junction, California was commissioned.


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory develops a solar cell—made from gallium indium phosphide and gallium arsenide—that becomes the first one to exceed 30% conversion efficiency.


The world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane, the Icare, flew over Germany. 


Cumulative worldwide installed photovoltaic capacity reaches 1000 megawatts.


At the International Space Station, astronauts begin installing solar panels on what will be the largest solar power array deployed in space. Each “wing” of the array consists of 32,800 solar cells.

Final words

That is it, that is the history of solar energy, the timeline of important events regarding solar energy from 7th century BC to early 2000.

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