BLOG: The History of Solar Energy
By Richard Payne, Managing Director, ReNew Petra
Although it appears that solar energy is the latest trend in the energy sector, it has actually been a topic of interest since the 7th-century B.C. when early civilizations would harness the power of the sun to light fires. During the 3rd-century B.C., Greeks and Romans proved the need for solar power in their everyday lives by using the sun and mirrors to light torches.
It wasn’t until the 1800s, however, that the first solar cells were invented. These cells, which were made from selenium, ended up not producing a reliable source of energy. Many decades later, in 1954, Bell Labs introduced the first efficient solar panel to the world, measuring at a six percent efficiency.
Once introduced, the desire for solar energy spiked across commercial and residential projects. With this surge and an increase in efficiency, a new problem arose: how do we lower the cost of solar to make solar panels affordable? From 1998-2009, the cost of solar panel installations continued to drop, shifting the focus on efficiency to a focus on cutting costs. In 2011, the race for solar to be competitive with traditional energy sources intensified and as time went on, the need for improvements to solar panels soared.
2015 introduced flexible printed solar panels to the marketplace—compact, flexible, relatively inexpensive medium that can produce up to 50 watts of energy per square meter. And since 2015, there has been a 50 percent annual compound growth in the solar industry, which has enabled solar energy prices to fall and innovative technical efficiencies to thrive. And it won’t stop there.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the cost of solar has dropped 55 percent in the past five years. What’s more, SEIA estimates that the U.S. solar market will more than double in the next five years. As costs continue to fall, there are new opportunities for energy providers to enter the solar market. Additionally, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) has become a noteworthy federal policy that supports solar initiatives around the country.
This viable energy source continues to grow, creating an increased desire for utility-scale solar. By partnering with an expert in utility-scale solar projects, a seemingly huge undertaking can be streamlined. ReNew Petra develops, builds, owns and operates numerous utility-scale solar projects across the country, and can help you seamlessly build a more sustainable tomorrow.
3 Facts About Solar Energy You Did Not Know
- The solar industry is creating jobs six times faster than the overall job market.
- The U.S. is the third-largest solar market in the world and is on track to become second.
- The space industry was one of the first industries to adopt solar. They started using solar technology in the 1950s to provide power onboard spacecraft.