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The History and Future of Solar Energy

By McKenzie Collins on 2017-02-19

Solar energy has been a hot topic for a long time now. It's only the beginning.



Although it is stigmatized as a modern concept, solar energy has existed for a long time. In fact, it was first utilized in the 7th century BC in a more minor form. Reflective surfaces like mirrors allowed the initiation of fires. Up until the 2nd century AD, solar energy was used to develop thermal and heat energy to keep houses warm. In Rome, solar energy was used between Roman ships for the obliteration of enemies.

It was not until the late 1700s where solar energy was utilized for cooking hot food. Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure developed a system which collected rays directly from the sun, later to be used for the safe preparing of food.

Solar energy has continued to develop over time thanks to a few insightful scientists. It was a Frenchman named Edmund Becquerel who made an important development about solar energy in 1839. He discovered its photovoltaic effect. This meant that where two substances were to meet under the exposure of light, they would develop between them an electric current.

A discovery such as this allowed for us as humans to control our creation of solar energy. No longer was the amount of solar energy we created out-with our manipulation. We were able to decrease and increase solar energy based on exposing two substances to more sunlight. Solar energy and its study would never be quite the same again.

The uses of solar energy continued to extend throughout the late 1800s. In 1860, it was utilized in creation of a solar-powered steam engine. This was put to use by varying vehicles and machinery across the world. It acted as a means to push the advancement of technology too.

What limited the advancement of solar energy years later, was only people’s lack of knowledge. For it was new and ambiguous, people stayed clear. Its use did not extend wide enough among general public for it to be understood and respected as a common source of energy. Although people acknowledged its sustainability, the cost of producing solar cells turned people off the idea of installing it in their homes.

increased. Albert Einstein was the first to initiate the teaching of solar energy to the public in 1905. He wrote a paper on the photoelectric effect - that which detailed the emission of electrons from a surface due to the addition of light. More informed on its benefits, nowadays the use of heat as a reliable source of energy has massively increased.

1908 saw the development of solar panels to an extent which remains prevalent today. William J Bailey was the inventor of a solar collector characterized by copper coils and unique insulation. This is still used to constitute our solar panels in 2017.

It took a significant time for these mechanisms to collect enough energy for the operation of household appliances. However, in 1953, the photovoltaic cell was built to store a greater amount of energy, that which allows us to rely more heavily on solar power today.

The future of solar power remains unknown unknown. Although the cost of renewable energy is not quite what it was, it still remains one of the more costly alternatives. For this reason, the use of solar energy has not extended across the majority of society - despite how this was once predicted. The more fossil fuels become spare, however, the more we may find ourselves leaning towards solar energy.

In the past decade, significant action has been taken by leading figures to assert the movement towards solar energy. Barack Obama supported the drive by assigning $1.6 billion in investment tax credits towards solar energy. He also encouraged that America source 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Whether this goal will be reached, however, is another thing in itself.

Simply because we have access to the technology for solar energy (and could power all energy-requiring mechanisms through its means), is not to say all our questions are answered. This technology is sought after by many and for such a sake, is high in price. There is still room for great improvement in terms of the way solar energy is constituted.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to consider the option. If you’re able to invest in a solar panel for your home, you should do so. It may appear initially expensive, but it’ll pay off in the long run. Not only will your conscience thank you, but so will the world eventually.

We’re on route to expanding our use of solar energy. However, it will take time. It will take battling politics and the economy. At some stage, the sustainability of the world has to trump all. There’s no harm in being a leader. In any way you can, start your transition now.

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