The History and Development of Solar Energy Technology

Solar Cells


The history and development of solar energy technology consists of a number of events. These include the creation of the first solar cells and the invention of Spacecrafts which can be powered by solar panels.


This process is referred to as the photoelectric effect. It occurs when light is absorbed by a solid and free electrons are released.

Charles Fritts

In 1883, Charles Fritts invented the first solar cell. He developed a solar cell using selenium coated with gold.


The first solar cell is a technological device that converts sunlight into electrical energy. But his device was only a few percent efficient at producing electricity.


Later, William Grylls Adams discovered that selenium produced electricity when exposed to sunlight. Future scientists used Adams’ findings to develop solar power.


By the 1970s, oil prices increased, and the demand for electricity was greater. As a result, solar power became a popular option for homes and businesses.


The photoelectric effect was not understood. Until the mid 1900s, solar cells were not practical. During the 1960s, however, researchers began to improve them. However, the dry cell batteries had a problem in humid environments. They degraded too quickly. For this reason, Bell Laboratories decided to investigate alternative energy sources.

Silicon solar

Silicon solar cells have been known as one of the best renewable energy sources. They have been proven to be cost-effective and environment-friendly. But how did the technology first come about? Here’s a brief history of how silicon was used to develop solar cells.
Antoine-Cesar Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. This led to further research and development by scientists. However, Becquerel couldn't explain why small electric currents were produced.
In 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect. He explained how an incoming photon could kick start electrons in a solar cell.

Bell Labs

The Bell Labs scientists worked together to produce the first silicon solar cell. This was the first silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) device.


Although early solar cells were inefficient, the researchers realized they could be an effective alternative to fossil fuels.


As a result, the US government began to pour money into developing the technology.


Spacecraft powered by solar panels are used by the majority of space missions within the inner Solar System.

Solar energy

Solar energy is an increasingly important source of power, and a growing number of extraterrestrial projects need a light weight power source. Solar-powered Missions have been sent to Mercury, Venus, the asteroid belt, and Mars. NASA is sending its Gateway program, which is being developed with commercial partnerships, to the moon between 2024-2025.