Solar energy provides an environmentally friendly alternative to other energy sources, and it is also relatively inexpensive. Although it works better in areas that have a lot of sunlight, including southern California, it has the potential to be utilized across the world for a wide number of different applications. For example, many of the electronic signs that are utilized in construction zones in Michigan are powered by solar energy. Although most people think that solar energy is a newer concept, mankind has been harnessing the power of the sun for centuries.
The Origins of Solar Energy
Experts believe that the first usage of solar energy dates back to the 7th Century B.C., but at that time people were simply using mirrors with the sun to light fires. As time passed, however, builders learned that installing large windows or sun rooms that faced the rising sun were a great way to keep homeowner's warmer throughout the day.
The first person who actually collected the sun's power was Horace de Saussure in 1767. The Swiss scientist devised a solar collector box that was later used by Sir John Herschel as a method for cooking food while traveling in the 1830s. Although Saussure's box was a step in the right direction, it was August Mouchet, a French mathematician, who made the first engine that was completely powered by solar energy.
1954 was a huge year for solar energy as it saw the development of photovoltaic technology. Three employees of Bell Labs are credited with creating the first solar cell in the world that had the capacity to convert enough energy from the sun into a viable power source for everyday objects. The team only achieved 11 percent efficiency with their silicon solar cell, but they set the major push towards solar energy in motion.
Multiple companies, including NASA and Sharp, spent the next two decades refining the work that was done in 1954. In the 70s, Dr. Elliot Berman was doing research that was backed by the Exxon Corporation, and he discovered a way to greatly reduce the cost of a solar cell. By cutting $80 off of each watt, Berman made solar energy a much more obtainable option for individuals and businesses around the world. This development, combined with an interest in reducing the country's reliance on oil, prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Solar Energy Research Institute.
By 1983, worldwide sales of photovoltaics had exceeded $250 million and multiple countries had become committed to utilizing solar energy. Solar panels have since been installed on the International Space Station, and companies such as Union Pacific Railroad and BP are using solar energy on a daily basis. Many homeowners have also made the switch, and solar panels enable them to collect the sun's rays and convert them into an environmentally and wallet friendly power source.
Installing Solar Energy in Your Home
Solar panels can easily be obtained from many different retailers, and most people can install them on their own. The panels are most commonly placed on rooftops, but as long as they have uninhibited access to the sun, they will be able to collect solar energy. Once the panels have been installed, they are connected via wires to a set of junction boxes. The panels are also connected to a conduit that sends the solar energy to a converter within your home. Once this entire loop has been completed, the solar energy is able to light up your entire home without the need for standard electricity.
Byline: April Santos recommends looking into solar power from Infinite Energy if you are interested in making your home and life greener in Australia.
Please also check out our other solar energy articles for tips and advice.