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History of Solar Energy

Since ancient times the sun has been energy source for different cultures. However, the active use of solar energy is an achievement of modern times.

In 1839 the French physician Alexandre Edmund Bequerel discovered the photoelectric effect, which set the start for today’s solar cells. While experimenting with batteries with galvanic elements, he discovered that the electrical voltage increased when light shines on it. However, he could not explain this phenomenon at this time. It has been Albert Einstein, who discovered the physical background of photovoltaic in 1905.

The predecessor of today’s PV modules has been developed by Charles Fritts in 1883. It was him, who set the basis for further research on the photoelectric effect.

Solar cells based on Silicon are relatively new. In 1954 a research team of the US Corporation Bell Laboratories among the specialists Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson developed the first solar cell with a coefficient of performance of up to 6%. Further developments of Photovoltaic are linked especially with space technology.

Also, solar heat has been used since ancient times. In ancient Egypt and Greece people used burning and concave mirrors to focus sun beams. Since ancient times the Olympic torch has been ignited traditionally with burning mirrors.

The Swiss natural scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure invented the predecessor of today’s solar collectors in the 18th century. However, it took a long time until the seventies of the last century to develop concepts for using solar heat.

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