Scratch the textbooks! Today we’re diving into the history of residential rooftop and commercial solar in NW Arkansas, the US and the world. It’s made a huge impact in our community already and it’s promising great rewards for the future. Hope you brought your swim trunks for this one, let’s get started!
When Solar Was Born
The history of solar power can be traced all the way back to 1876 when William Grylls Adams discovered that selenium - a crystalline nonmetal – when exposed to light, produced electricity! The experiment was hailed as “scientifically of the most far-reaching importance” by Werner von Siemens (a very important German inventor and founder of the Siemens electrical company). Even though the selenium cells were not efficient at the time, the fact that Adams had discovered the potential of creating electricity without moving parts or heat was a huge breakthrough for mankind.
Several years after this, in 1953, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson and Daryl Chapin, discovered what we call “silicon solar cells.” These cells were a lot more efficient than selenium and even produced enough electricity to run small electrical devices. Three years after they discovered this, the first “solar cells” were created and made commercially available everywhere! As with all new technology, they were insanely expensive with a 1-watt solar cell costing as much as $300 – compared to our $3.00 per 1-watt today. Yes, you read that correctly. The cost has come down by 100x! Over time, solar cells started being used in toys and radios and eventually made their way into space, via the USA’s and Soviet Union’s satellites in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Ever since then solar has transformed into what it is today.
The Impact Solar Has Made As A Renewable Energy Source
As solar power evolved from the 1960’s, the price per watt slowly started to decrease. In 1970 a big breakthrough hit the market due to research carried out by Exxon. This research brought the price per watt down from $100 to a staggering $20, making solar power more accessible to all of us! During the 80s, developments in solar power technology gave rise to smaller, cheaper and more efficient solar panels, allowing an increase in residential solar installations, vehicles and everyday household items. Then in 1999, Spectro La, Inc. teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and developed a “photovoltaic solar cell” that could convert sunlight into electricity with a 32.3% efficiency increase. Since then, governments around the world and in the US, have taken numerous initiatives to promote the use of solar power as a renewable energy source.
Solar power has made a permanent home in our future and will continue to provide us with pure, clean, uninterrupted energy - without any of the nasty greenhouse gas emissions and environmental hazards that come with fossil fuels. With the continuing price decrease of solar power and the ever increasing concerns about the environment, there is no doubt that solar energy will continue to grow at a rapid pace. In fact, solar power is on the rise! Estimates suggest that 2016 is going to be a record-breaking year for US solar power installations (and we have the testimonials to prove it).
Here’s the best news: As utility companies keep increasing the price of electricity it means that solar will become more and more affordable for homeowners. To accelerate the curve even faster, consider the fact that as more people go solar the price of solar will drop even further as solar manufacturers lower prices and increase efficiency in order to compete with one another and maintain their market share.
Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll let you know all about state and federal tax incentives that will actually put money back into your pocket by next spring. These incentives are the secret sauce that enable solar to make financial sense for so many new homeowners!
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