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How Solar Power Came to Be: A Brief History

While it has only been in recent decades that the concept of solar power has traveled to the modern person’s mainstream consciousness and become a go-to for energy conservationists and environmentally conscientious consumers, the truth is that the power of the sun has been used—in one way or another—since the beginning of time. It is the sun, after all, that makes life on Earth possible.

Let’s take a look at the development of solar energy and how it has been used throughout history to aid humankind.

Solar Power’s Beginning

Let’s take this all the way back to the Viking Age, where curious lads from Northern lands of Sweden and Norway went exploring uncharted territory and eventually landed in England. They would raid and pillage the lands for some time; this would come to be known as the Norman Conquest. In order to sail towards these unknown lands, the Vikings had developed technologies for navigation. One of these technologies included using sunstones in order to orient themselves in the right direction, even when it was cloudy. According to some accounts, these stones reflected the sun and indicated one’s location depending on how it refracted light. Now that is solar power!

Ok, but seriously now. Solar power—as we think of it today—usually refers to solar cell technology or photovoltaic technology. These concepts really began during the Industrial Revolution when a French physicist discovered the ability of solar cells to convert solar light into electricity by absorbing the light and creating electrical voltage.

Sometime later, American inventor Charles Fritts created the world’s first rooftop solar array and coated the panels with selenium. In 1905, Albert Einstein wrote a paper explaining the photoelectric effect, so that the concept became better understood.

Early Photovoltaic Technologies

It was in 1954 that Bell Labs developed modern photovoltaic cells. This technology, of course, was still very expensive for use by the populace, but it was explored in more detail by the military, which funded research on PV’s ability to power satellites. In fact, much of the new developments in PV technology was done by the U.S government.

Government Efforts To Expand Research

In the 1970s, an energy crisis propelled the government to further commit to exploring solar energy options, so as to avoid energy dependence. It was in the late 70s that several bills were passed to try and make a push for the development of solar energy. Among many of these directives was the 1978 Solar Photovoltaic Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act that directed the Department of Energy to market these systems across the country. Jimmy Carter’s administration went as far as installing solar panels on the roof of the White House in order to further expand public interest in the technology.

In the early 2000s, there were tax relief credits that encouraged people to implement solar technologies into their homes. Government subsidies in 2009, also helped fuel further interest. Fast forward to 2018—a time where energy efficiency is on everyone’s mind—and you have a market that is every day more and more interested in implementing and exploring avenues of solar power for their homes.

Get Solar Powered

Here at RGC Technologies, we are dedicated to the exciting field of solar energy and helping people have access to some of the best technologies.  We have solar powered power stations that can help power your AC unit, RVs, boats, and more. Learn more today by calling RGC Technologies.


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