Solar Power: Then, Now, and Looking Forward
March 02, 2021

Solar Power: Then, Now, and Looking Forward

Solar power has been touted for years as a source of clean, renewable energy. Homeowners in sunny locations may choose to have solar panels installed on their homes for reasons ranging from environmental concerns to the desire to reduce their energy bill. But when did this all start? And where is it headed going forward?

Solar Then

Technically, the first instance of humans using solar power was centuries ago when people used glass and mirrors to concentrate light to ignite fires. The first solar cells were created in 1883, though it was discovered that selenium created electricity when exposed to sunlight a few years earlier. Solar cells today are made from silicon, which began in 1954. A few years later, they were used to power satellites. Improvements in solar cell efficiency continued to be made from 1957 through 2016. Prices dropped significantly, greatly increasing the demand for solar power systems to be installed on personal residences.

Solar Now

Today’s silicon photovoltaic cells are far more efficient than the ones produced in the 1950’s. The demand continues to grow, fueled by greater efficiency, greater affordability, the desire to protect natural resources, and the fiscal benefits they offer. The most recent breakthroughs in efficiency allow for a rate of up to 34.5% efficiency in converting sunlight into energy. Today’s panels can be as affordable as $0.50 per watt. Solar installation continues to grow at an average growth rate of 76% annually. Solar power systems now have the ability to significantly reduce energy bills and to even eliminate them in some instances.

Looking Forward

Solar energy is expected to continue to grow, and quickly. In the U.S., the solar market is expected to be valued at $22.9 billion by 2025. Currently, the federal government offers tax credits to homeowners who install solar panel systems. These tax credits are a real driving force behind many homeowners’ decision to convert from just wanting to have them installed to actually purchasing a system. There could be a decline in the growth trend as those credits expire, but given the trend towards greater efficiency and affordability, it’s not likely to stop.

Solar power has come a long way since people first started harnessing it. From the early days of using reflected and concentrated light to set fires to powering homes using silicon photovoltaic cells, there has been a mindblowing amount of progress made. It’s highly likely that those trends will continue. One thing is for sure - humans are capable of doing some truly amazing things when harnessing the powers of nature.

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