The state of the renewable and alternative sources of energy
Some time ago, I watched a show in which the characters had to learn to live and thrive after all the power in the world had vanished. It made me wonder how we as a people would react if that ever happened. It also drove home the point that human beings take too much for granted, including where they get power.
When most people think of power, they don’t often look up. Mankind has relied on the resources of the earth for their power needs, which is mostly made up of fossil fuels. While there are alternative ways to produce energy, most of the technology involved in doing so is not very highly developed.
The history of solar power’s development
The history of solar power is a unique and interesting one. The very first device ever built to capture the energy of the sun was invented in the year 1767 by Horace de Saussure and was a type of solar oven.
In 1839 Edmond Becquerel at the tender age of 19 discovered what is known as the Photovoltaic Effect that voltage is created when a material is exposed to light. The next significant achievement in the history of solar energy came in the year 1873 when a man named Willoughby Smith discovered that selenium collected energy from the sun, and that that energy could be converted into electricity.
Solar power used in motor and steam engines
In the 1860s Auguste Mouchout moved the science of solar energy forward. He gained funding from the French Monarchy for his work. He was able to develop a motor that ran on solar energy and a steam engine that could be used to make ice which were truly amazing feats for that day and age.
In 1876 William Gryllis Adams and his student Richard Evans Day, found they could create an electrical current in Selenium when connecting two electrodes to the plate. Charles Fritts then carried this research forward in 1998 where he designed a way to use selenium wafers (thin slices) to generate electricity. Adams also developed a way to harness mirrors to power a steam engine which is still in use today.
The development of storing solar energy
Around 1904 American Henry Willsie was able to store energy collected via solar power during the day to be used at night. In the year 1908, a man named William J. Baileys designed and built a copper based solar collector. His designs are still emulated in modern day technology, although many improvements have been made along the way. It was also around this time that Albert Einstein published a paper containing his theories about the photoelectric effect where he theorized how light could free electrons on a metal surface.
Commercially-produced solar cells
David Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson created the first viable commercial solar cell in 1954 at the famous Bell Labs. Their “solar cell” converted sunlight directly into electrical power. Their designs have been improved on with the efficiency and life span of solar cells continuing to improve.
The development of solar power will continue to expand as the demand for clean energy sources continues to rise. With growing concerns over green house gasses, disruptions in gas and oil supplies and the need for remote access to power, solar energy continues to gain popularity and momentum.