The History Timeline of Solar Energy

The sun is one of the most powerful energy sources we have available, and that kind of power doesn’t go unnoticed.  Understanding the history of solar power is crucial to relying effectively on the sun for a source of usable energy!

700 BC

Way back in 700 BC, the first sunlit fire was created.  Now, this may not be what you think of when you imagine solar power, but it was the true beginning of solar power’s history! But, from here we continue into the perhaps more traditional aspects of solar history.


In 1769 the first solar oven was invented.  This was a huge step for solar power because it was one of the first times solar power was intentionally harnessed to produce heat energy.  And, in 1776, the first solar collector was built by Horace de Saussure.


In 1839 the term photovalic was coined to refer to the creation of electric current when substances are exposed to light. And, August Mouchot used this new information to directly convert solar radiation into mechanical power.  Although this process began in the 1860’s, he continued perfecting it into the 1880’s.  Mouchot’s discoveries led to the production of solar energy as a viable and usable energy source.

Then, in 1873-1876 scientists learned about the Photo Conductivity of Selenium—meaning that selenium becomes more conductive when it is exposed to light energy. This discovery was used to produce and use electricity through light.

In 1881-1891 scientists made even more advances into the storing of solar energy through the invention of solar cells.

1905-1916 Albert Einstein Solar Paper

Early in 1905, Albert Einstein wrote a paper on the photoelectric effect.  His efforts however were not recognized until 1916 when Robert Millikan found further evidence to support Einstein’s claims.  Their combined knowledge served to advance the progressions of solar power and storage processes.

Also, in 1908 the first copper collector for solar power was created.  Copper plays an important role in the collection of all renewable energy sources, so this discovery represents a huge step forward for the solar power industry.


Finally in the late 1940’s, solar energy finally began gaining traction, especially after WWII. As time and energy was able to turn away from the war effort, more scientific minds were able to direct their energy towards the production of renewable power sources.


In the early 1950’s Photovoltaics—or the processes of converting solar radiation to direct current energy—was discovered. And, in 1958 solar energy really took off, and beyond simply being used here on earth, it also reached space, as astronauts began using solar energy in space crafts.


For the first time, solar panels began to become a viable and cost effective means of harnessing energy on a wide scale.  This was a huge step in the right direction for solar energy that brought us much closer to the wide variety of solar energy available today.


But even though solar power was beginning to take off, the United States’ government didn’t start to embrace solar energy until the late seventies. And, in 1981 the first Solar Panel Aircrafts were created. The first successful solar powered flight flew from France to England during this time.

In 1982 Australia began developing solar panel cars, the future for solar panels was truly beginning to look bright!

1986-1999Solar Energy Plants

Large solar energy plants started popping up everywhere. This started a trend of environmentally sound solar plants that promised a positive future for solar energy. And, finally in 1999 solar energy processes truly developed into an extremely efficient source of energy.


When Spain gained a subsidy on solar energy it had a negative effect on solar energy around the world.  But, by 2012 the world overcame these obstacles to the point of introducing record breaking solar plants.

And today, solar energy is becoming so important that it even played a role in the FIFA World Cup.   Solar power is becoming more and more important as the industry, need, and workforce is rapidly growing. And you can become a part of this rich tradition with your own solar panels!

Don’t wait to embrace the history of solar power, call us today to see how you can implement solar power into your life.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

photo credit: Collin Key (away) via photopin cc