The sun has served humanity as a principal source of power for far longer than most people realize. Humans have been harnessing solar energy for over 2700 years. The first evidence of using solar radiation through a magnifying glass to make fire dates back to 700 BC! The Romans and Greeks used solar power in architecture, constructing buildings with south-facing windows to keep the indoors warm during winters and allow light inside. This practice continues even today. Apart from usual usage, solar power has even been used as a weapon of mass destruction. As one Greek legend goes, the great inventor Archimedes used polished bronze shields to concentrate the sun’s rays on the enemy’s wooden ships and set them on fire. Whether the legend is true or not, there’s no doubt that solar energy has been vital to carry out daily activities like heating and cooking throughout history.
When Were Solar Panels Invented?
It all started with the French physicist Edmond Becquerel, who in 1839 discovered the photovoltaic effect — a phenomenon that produces a voltage and electric current in a cell when exposed to sunlight. In 1873, Willoughby Smith found that selenium possessed photoconductivity potential, which led to William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day discovering in 1876 that selenium can generate electricity when exposed to sunlight.
Almost 50 years after the discovery of the PV effect, an American inventor, Charles Fritts, built the first solar cells made from selenium wafers. However, these had a very low energy conversion rate of around 1 to 2 percent. The solar cells as we know them today are made with silicon, a feat that was achieved in 1954 when Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson developed the first silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell at Bell Labs. The silicon PV cells showed an efficiency of 6%. This was a staggering improvement upon previous efforts to produce solar cells.
Solar technology has come a long way since the first solar cell was built. Today, solar cells power all kinds of devices, from small electronic items like calculators to rooftop solar panels. In the past decade, the solar industry has seen a massive growth of 49% and is expected to continue growing at a steady pace in the coming years and beyond.
Here at Smart Solar Energy Co., we are huge fans of all things solar. After all, solar energy is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly option, and it saves us money! To share our love for all things solar, we have curated a list of our favorite fun and interesting facts to share with other homeowners who are curious about this amazing technology.
15 Facts for Homeowners Who Are Passionate About the Environment
Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy on our planet. It’s renewable, unlike fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas, which are depleting quickly. And once we run out, it will take them millions of years to replenish. Sounds scary, right? We think so. But fret not! Our dependence on fossil fuels is decreasing rapidly as we move toward renewable sources of energy such as solar. Let’s look at some facts that illustrate how solar energy is one of the best and most eco-friendly sources of energy out there.
- The Earth receives 174,000 terawatts (1 TW = one trillion watts) of energy from the sun continuously, even on cloudy days. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.
- In just one hour, the sun provides us with enough energy to fulfill our energy needs for the entire year.
- Solar energy systems produce zero pollution and no greenhouse gases when generating electricity.
- Although the sun is 90 million miles away from us, it takes an average of 8 minutes and 20 seconds for sunlight to reach Earth.
- Solar power plants can last for more than 40 years.
- Stretching across 3,500 acres in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the world’s largest solar-thermal facility. Its energy output is enough to power 140,000 homes.
- According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020, solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.
- More than half of the renewable capacity installed in 2019 achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants.
- China is the leader in the global solar race. Their six biggest solar companies have a combined value of over $15 billion.
- The United States is the second-largest solar energy market behind China and has produced a total of 17,468,342 Megawatt-hour (MWh) of solar energy ever since the industry was born.
- California is the highest solar power generating state in the U.S. Solar accounts for over 20% of the state’s electricity.
- The solar industry employs nearly 250,000 people and generated $18.7 billion of investment in the American economy in 2019.
- Every year, solar energy users can save as much as 75 million barrels of oil and 35 million tons of carbon dioxide.
- Burlington in Vermont is the first city in the U.S. to run on 100% renewable electricity.
- The Vanguard 1 satellite launched in 1958 was the first spacecraft to use solar panels. While the battery-powered transmitter stopped working within months, the solar-powered transmitter operated for six years.
18 Facts About Home Solar Panels
If there is anything that has the potential to compete with conventional electricity, it’s solar energy. It is not uncommon anymore for homeowners to install solar panels in their homes, as solar has become less expensive and more accessible through various programs designed to increase solar adoption.
Solar panels harness the energy of the sun and convert it into electricity that can power an entire household. Solar is a completely renewable source of energy that doesn’t harm the environment. Read on to learn some fascinating facts about solar panels for homeowners.
- Leonardo da Vinci predicted in 1447 that solar power would be used on an industrial scale.
- Shortly after the discovery of the photovoltaic effect by Edmond Becquerel, Russel Ohl invented the first Solar Panel cell in 1941.
- Solar cells first appeared in the public market in 1956. However, they were quite expensive — about $300 per watt.
- The U.S. is home to over 2 million solar installations. This number is expected to double by 2023.
- The average payback period for a residential solar energy system is between 6-9 years. Homeowners can expect their system to pay for itself in less than a decade.
- Solar panels take the least amount of time to deploy. During the time of a disaster, no other source of electricity can be built or repaired as quickly as solar panels.
- Modern photovoltaic solar panels can produce 8-10 watts per square foot of solar panel area.
- To power the whole planet with solar energy, we would need to install solar panels on 191,000 square miles. The land available on Earth stretches over 57 million square miles.
- A household rooftop solar panel system in its lifetime can save 100 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, thereby reducing air pollution to a great extent.
- Solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to work. They produce electricity even on cloudy days and during winters. The only time they can’t generate electricity is at night.
- Solar panels have a 25-year warranty period on average, but they go on to produce electricity years after their warranty period has ended.
- Out of all the different types of solar panels available, monocrystalline solar panels usually have the highest efficiency and power capacity. Their efficiency ranges from 17% to 22%.
- Las Vegas’s city government in Nevada draws all of its energy from renewable sources. Relying on green sources of energy saves the city approximately $5 million per year.
- Most solar panels are between 15% and 20% efficient. This means that they’re capable of converting 20% of the light striking them into electricity.
- Solar panels are truly versatile. They can be installed on buildings, roads, bridges, and even spacecraft and satellites.
- Solar energy can provide power 24/7 with the aid of storage batteries.
- Solar panel costs have fallen more than 99% over the last four decades. In 2020, the average cost of solar installation is $2.91 per watt.
- The U.S. has an estimated 85 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed, which is enough to power 16 million homes.
Join the Solar Revolution
Fossil fuels are not here to stay, but solar energy is. As more people and governments come to this realization, more effort continues to be funneled into finding alternative sources of energy. Until recently, we were facing huge hurdles related to the efficiencies and costs of renewable energy sources. But with the falling prices of solar panels, coupled with federal tax benefits and technological improvements, switching to solar has become affordable and preferable.
Oregon alone has enough solar installed to power 114,837 homes. That number is expected to continue to grow as more environment-conscious citizens move toward green energy. Going solar is the smart choice because it will not just help contribute to the fight against climate change, but save you thousands of dollars, create jobs, and increase the real estate value of your home.
By choosing Smart Solar Energy, you are choosing to be a part of the new solar revolution. You’ll benefit the environment and your own bottom line. Plus, we work hard to make going solar an easy and smooth process for you!
You can go through our free educational resources here to learn more about solar. If you decide that solar power is the right choice for you and you would like to let more people know about the importance of going green, we recommend you take the following steps:
- Get solar panels installed in your home.
- Ask your state’s elected officials to require utility companies to provide net metering to homeowners (if you live in Oregon or Washington,this is already in effect, and you’ll benefit from serious savings).
- Appeal to your lawmakers to invest in solar research and development.
- Encourage your family and friends to book a free solar audit with Smart Solar Energy Co. to find out how much they could save by going solar.
We are running out of time to deal with the impending climate crisis. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to cut fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 to avoid a climate catastrophe. We have to act now to transition to renewable sources of energy and ensure a sustainable future for everyone. Going solar is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to make a difference, and you’ll save a lot of money in the process.