A Brief History of Solar Power

Where We Came From, Where We Are, & Where We’re Going with Solar Power

Solar power has been around for a lot longer than you’d expect. In fact, its been providing energy for the 2,700 years. To prove it, we’ve condensed thousands of years of history into need to know facts about solar power.

7th Century B.C.

Magnifying glass concentrates sun’s rays to create fire.

3rd Century B.C.

Mirrors are used to light torches for religious purposes in Greek and Roman society.

2nd Century B.C.

Archimedes, a greek scientist, uses the reflective nature of bronze shields to light sieging Roman ships on fire. There is no proof of this actually happening, but the Greek Navy recreated this in an experiment in 1973. They successfully burned a boat at a 50 meter distance and proved it is in fact possible.

1st Century A.D.

Roman bathhouses use the sun for heat.


Horace de Saussure, a Swiss scientist, builds the world’s first solar collector. It’s later used by explorer Sir John Herschel to cook food on a South African expedition.


Robert Sterling applies for a patent for his economiser, a solar thermal electricity technology that concentrates the sun’s thermal energy to produce power.


At only 19 years old, Edmond Becquerel discovers that electricity can be generated when conductors are exposed to light — the photovoltaic effect. This lays the foundation for solar power.


Charles Fritts, an American inventor, designs the first photovoltaic cell using selenium wafers.


Albert Einstein develops the photon theory of light. One of Einstein’s lesser known contributions, this theory outlines how light can free electrons from metal surfaces. This discovery wins him a Nobel Prize in 1921.


David Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson of Bell Laboratories create the world’s first photovoltaic cell and are the first to convert sunlight into electrical power. Their first model converted energy at a rate of 4%. Eventually, they were able to push this efficiency to 11%.


The Vanguard I space satellite used a small solar array for power. Soon after its launch, Explorer III, Vanguard II, and Sputnik-3 were launched and used photovoltaic cells for power. It remains the preferred power for space travel to this day.


The first solar-powered aircraft is built and flies from France to England across the English Channel.


Solar Panels are installed on the International Space Station.


Solar panels and solar power are becoming increasingly more effective. Energy prices are competitive, and often even more affordable than traditional electricity sources. Conversion rates and efficiencies are far above their humble beginnings and solar power is increasingly becoming the preferred energy solution for residences, commercial buildings, and agriculture.

Using Solar Power in Your Home and Business in the Future

Solar power efficiency rates and production capacities are only going to rise as more research and development is conducted. Soon we will able to produce and store enough solar power energy to last through cloudy days and nights. However, these technological advancement can only occur if we start investing in alternative energy now. Support a cleaner earth and a better future when you switch to solar power.