Contrary to popular belief, solar energy hails from the Victorian era. Many of us may assume that solar panels were a 1970s thing. Some of us may regard leaves as an early example.
If you look at Jessica Draws’ infographic from 2013, you will be surprised to find that solar energy as we know it today is a Victorian invention. It all began in 1839 when a number of platinum electrodes were seen in a pot of acid fizz with an electrical charge. Its foundations were established.
In 1888 – 91 a formula was created, leading to the photoelectric cells. This attracted the attention of a certain Mr. Einstein in 1905. He created a seminal paper on the photoelectric effect. One that won a Nobel Prize. In 1925.
Real progress came after the Second World War. Firstly, 1954 saw the New York Times’ celebration of ‘the limitless energy of the sun’. Then, satellites began to orbit the Earth. Among the first was Telstar, a communications satellite which inspired a UK Number One single by the Tornados in August 1962. No prizes for guessing which kind of energy was used there.
A real breakthrough came in 1967 when Soyuz was the first spaceship to harness the power of the sun. Soon, solar panels would be used in watches and calculators. Jimmy Carter had them installed on the roof of The White House during his presidency. They were taken down in 1986 during Ronald Reagan’s second term in office.
Towards continued growth
In 1986, solar energy developments were light years away from previous developments. Even so, widespread use would only be 30 years away. Compared with 1984 figures, its worldwide adoption rates climbed sixfold and the boom was a long way off. Enter stage left of centre, Arnold Schwartzenegger, film star, and Californian governor. In 2004, his Solar Roofs Initiative added solar energy systems to a million homes in his state.
In 2007, the Pope and Google followed suit with their own installations. 2010 saw the return of solar panels to The White House under Barack Obama’s first term as president. Its popularity continued worldwide as efficiency levels rose. As a home improvement option, solar PV installation became as popular as having double glazing fitted. So much so that even double glazing companies have started offering similar installations.
The industry is changing all the time which provides us with new challenges. As systems become more affordably priced for households they could be as ubiquitous as satellite dishes and 52″ televisions.
If you look at Jessica’s infographic, you will be amazed to see how many of the changes took place in the last fifteen years. When we started in 2005, we were on the cusp of an energy revolution. One that is still progressing today. What will tomorrow bring? We shall never know.