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The History Of Solar Power

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history of solar power

Solar power has truly ancient roots, literally billions of years. Even the earliest life benefited from the sun; solar power helps plants and animals thrive.

Ancient man soon learned to control the sunlight to provide warmth even in the harshest climates. It wasn't long before someone worked out how to use sunlight and glass to start a fire.

Around about two thousand years ago, Hero of Alexandria devised a working steam engine, with some of his models using the heat and light from the sun to push the turbine.

Now, 2000 years later, scientists have learned to harness the suns power for electricity.

The History Of Solar Energy

The first steps in modern history of solar power

Swiss Scientist, Horace-Benedict de Saussure, in 1767, created the first modern solar collector; using glass boxes, trapping hot air and heating it via sun-light. Later, Edmond Becquerel discovered what we call the “phovoltaic effect' in 1839, realising that sunlight creates a current in certain electrolytes. However, it actually took over 100 years before any inventions with a practical use based on this discovery were realized.

In the 1920's, heat from the sun was used to warm water and provide heating for many houses, unfortunately these systems could not compete economically as the price of gas and electricity decreased to the point where that was below these systems base operating costs.

In 1954, the world of solar power changed forever, with Bell Labs development of the first efficient photovoltaic cell. Within twenty years of that development, human beings were floating in earths orbit, 'Skylab', with power supplied by photovoltaic cells.

When electricity hits a circuit, electrons move from positive to negative, the same is true for when sunlight hits certain electrolytes, and this is the base concept of modern photovoltaic cells.

Today's use of solar energy

Since 1954, there has been an ever increasing number of devices using solar power; solar powered lights, radios, with usage and efficiency constantly increasing. With a combination of increasing power outputs per size ratios, lessening costs, and schemes like the Australian Government's rebate on solar panels for home usage, usage can only increase.

With these increases in efficiency, solar powered cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, backpacks with solar panels integrated, the usage of solar panels by American Special Force's troops in Iraq, home solar showers and heating systems, are all becoming more efficient and reliable.

When compared to power being charged by large electrical companies, solar is expensive for some situations, but for others is very affordable.

Millions of lights and phones across highways use solar panels, gardeners will often use solar powered lamps for garden lighting, due to the difficulty and danger of laying fixed mains cables; batteries and electric fences often use solar power as the primary energy source.

Water treatment in developing countries also often uses solar energy to work, simple evaporation based desalinisation results in clean, healthy water, and the only energy that is needed is sunlight.

These methods are remarkably affordable, and of immense utility to many in the developing world and some parts of America.

Whether being used for powering the latest electronic gadget, simply to supply human beings with vitamin-D, to clean water, the potential uses are almost endless, and clean energy is a wonderful thing.

You can read more about the newest solar trends here. And about the future of solar energy here.

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