Our Solar Energy History


Perhaps hard to believe, in light of our current environmental concerns and worries over global warming, but our solar energy history stretches back many centuries to when man first used a piece of glass and the sun to start a fire to keep warm and to cook with.

That primitive fire all those centuries ago has given birth to what we now understand and class as solar energy. Our advanced and ever developing solar systems of today are quite different from a hundred years ago when that primitive fire aside, many recognize the beginnings of modern day solar energy.

Indeed our modern day solar energy history dates back as far as the mid 1800s when far sighted scientists and engineers began writing about how to turn light into energy. However, not much was done about actually putting these writings into practice until a French man, Auguste Mouchout, patented the first design to run a motor from solar energy.

Moving onto the 1870s when a British man, Willoughby Smith, began experimenting with what could be classed as the first solar cells. However, it was William Adams and his use of mirrors who really made a leap. He was able to power a steam engine of 2.5 horsepower and to this day, his ground breaking achievement, known as the Power Tower, is still used.

What we learn from our solar energy history, is that throughout, and despite the continued advancements with solar energy, solar energy never really took off in a big way. Despite government and even royal backing at various point through history, solar energy had many false starts. At one point, the price of coal dropped and the attention of the great and the good moved away from solar energy and back to non-renewable fuels. However it’s true to say that even as far back as the 1800s there were some who fully understood that our dependence on the non-renewable fossil fuels was an environmental bad idea and they kept on making advancements in utilizing solar energy.

Fast forward wot the 1950s and Bell Labs made one of the big breakthroughs when they discovered that silicon was a great product that could be used as a conductor to create a chemical reaction when light and heat from the sun shone on it. Basically the solar cell was born. That discovery is the technology that we use today for creating what we know as solar panels.

Solar panels on the tops of roofs are now regular sights in some parts of the world, however as our solar energy history shows us, there is always more we could do to make use of perhaps our biggest asset.