Solar Energy History-Present-Future

The genesis of solar energy history goes way back to the year 1838 to an observer by the name of Edmund Becquerel who at that time had published findings on the capability of materials to change light into raw energy. Although it was fascinating at that time no one took the opportunity to pursue it then.

As time would have it, the first patent design for a motor running on solar energy was done by a man called Augustin Mouchot in 1860. Fortunately for him the monarch of France funded his project which gave him the ability to create a device that would turn solar energy into the first steam engine. This however was the beginning of things to come, for August went on to illustrate that the sun’s rays can be used to make ice by connecting the steam engine to a refrigerator device. A medal was awarded to him for his discovery.

Notwithstanding, his one of a kind research was shortly becoming a financial burden for the French, who in turn seek out a cheaper arrangement with the English for a supply of coal. August worked assiduously, trying to come up with alternatives but there was no interest in such a commodity any longer for the French monarch. So the funding of the researches came to a halt!


The first book which was written on solar energy was by a man called William Adams in 1876. The book was titled “A Substitute for Fuel in Tropical Countries.” William had conducted a number of experiments along with his student Richard Day using mirrors; they were able to create a 2.5 horsepower steam engine which was much bigger than Augustin’s horsepower steam engine, whose power was just 0.5. Their design became known as the (Power Tower Concept) and is still a part of today’s world.

In 1883, Charles Fritz was able to convert the sun’s ray into electricity. The solar cell converted at 2% max which became a great turning point in solar energy history.

It was a Frenchman (Charles Teller) at the time of 1885 that experimented with a non-concentrating and non-reflecting solar motor. Charles became the first person to install a solar energy system onto his roof for heating water for domestic use; no one was able to achieve it before 1885. But Charles himself had a passion for refrigeration. As a matter of fact, he was deemed the father of the particular trade. Nevertheless, his desire to pursue his dreams into refrigeration caused a lack of interest towards solar energy researches and experiments, and of course the whole solar energy thing became dormant. Who knows what our present state would have been if he had only persevered.

The first Solar Company was by John Erickson, a Swedish inventor and researcher, who also had a part to play in the development of the solar energy, created a solar power steam engine that carried similar features as Augustin’s design between the years of 1868-1888. John was the one that coined these words: – “A couple of thousand years dropped in the ocean of time will completely exhaust the coal fields of Europe, unless, in the meantime, the heat of the sun is employed.”

Solar Energy -Industrialization

By the time of the birthing and the dawn of the twentieth century, solar energy was no longer operated as one man experimentation, but it rather became industrialized. In 1892 Aubrey Eneas formed the very first Solar Energy Company -”The Solar Motor Co.” all the way through to 1905. The company kicked off with its mission by selling the world’s first consumer solar energy system to one Dr. A. J. Chandler for an astonishing figure of $2,160.00. The unit did not last a week before disaster struck and it was destroyed in a windstorm. The second unit that was sold also got destroyed in a hailstorm shortly after. These streams of events led to the company’s demise causing their doors to close forever.

Largest Solar Energy System Henry Willsie also took a shot at it by building two huge solar plants in the California state. Henry manages to be the first to operate power at night after storing it in the day. His company was successful in getting the logistics up and running but, it did not succeed in the area of marketing its units to the public and eventually had to close its doors permanently in 1904.

Sun Power Co. constructed the biggest and most cost-effective solar energy system covering 10,000 square feet. Though it was able to produce an enormous amount of steam it was unable to provide sufficient pressure. The merging of Frank Sherman and E.P. Haynes in 1906 gave birth to Sun Power Co ltd. They went on to build an irrigation plant on the outskirt of Cairo that suffered an unfortunate end through the Great War in 1914.

Solar Power – Advancements

The 1950s – the 1960s we saw a couple of advancement towards the development of the solar energy starting with the boys at Bell Laboratories, who accidentally discovered the use of silicon that evidently led them to put together a solar panel, that gave a rate of 6%. The commercial solar cell which was the first of its kind was made available to the public in 1956 at a cost of $300 per wattage. Space programs also got involved using solar technologies. The first satellite to used solar energy to generate electricity was in 1958.

Energy Crisis We recalls the energy crisis in 1970 (OPEC oil embargo). It was not until then, that those who were in authority realized how dependable our existence was on non-renewable resources, such as coal, oil and gas that they relentlessly seek alternative forms of energy. The price of solar cells had drop to an all-time low of $20.00 per wattage.

Solar Energy Failures and Lasting Potentials

The company that were producing 95% of the world’s largest amount of solar electricity in the 1980s to 1991, was situated in Los Angele and had to close their doors permanently. This closure was due to the withdrawal of their investors who became frustrated and withdrew from the project because the declining of the non- renewable fossil fuels was irreversible, while governmental incentives also, were not promising. These were the words of the chairman of the board of directors: “The failure of the world’s largest solar electric company was not due to technological or business judgment failures but rather to failures of government regulatory bodies to recognize the economic and environmental benefits of solar thermal generating plants.”

The Earth’s Future It was calculated that solar energy that is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere through the ocean and land masses is approx. 3,850,000 (EJ) per year. In the year 2002 generated more energy in one hour than the world used in one year. There were approx. 3,000 EJ per year in biomass which photosynthesis captures.

Having the revelation of solar energy history, has informed us as to how we may go forward as a generation seeking a greener earth. The quantum of solar energy that hits the earth’s surface is so vast that in one year it is about twice the amount that will ever be absorb from all of the earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas and uranium all together.