We have solar powered everything these days but someone somewhere had to be the first to figure out how to harness the power of the sun. Solar energy, in essence is the ability to take and keep the sun’s rays to generate heat or electricity. The panel itself is a collection of cells. If we are talking a solar panel, then those cells are spread over a large area. The smaller the device (think solar garden light) then the smaller the panel and the cells it contains.
In the late 1800’s a man by the name of Edmond Becquere discovered the photovoltaic effect which would allow conversion of sunlight into solar electric energy. Back then they were interested in turning the sun’s energy into steam to power their farm equipment and trains. In 1893 a man by the name of Charles Fritts came up with the first genuine solar cell. Back them it was formed by coating sheets of selenium with a layer of gold.
We have come a long way since those days and of course the solar panel has been perfected and changed so that it can be used for a wide variety of things. It is funny to think that the first real widespread use of a solar cell was back in the 1970’s and in a calculator of all things, but that is the real deal. Today, we can find solar cells in calculators still but also in all manner of lighting, Christmas lights, boat and dock lights and in places like malls, parking lots and barns. It is a great invention as it harnesses something that we have for free in the world and makes something out of it.
When people have the large solar panels on their roof they are trying to ‘get off the grid’ that is make their own electricity and thereby stop paying the high cost of their electric bill each month. Solar is also great for remote homes and cabins because of its effectiveness, price and the fact that remote homes no longer have to be attached to the grid in order to have electricity.
It is free from the sun. It can help us ease or erase our monthly utility bill, it is clean and green and it is sustainable. What more can we ask for? Thankfully the brilliant minds of the past started us on a path of discovery and helped us get on the solar bandwagon.