Intro to Solar

By dabilendabilen (1256105080|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

What is Solar?

As green becomes the new … white the masses have had their ears pop up in regards to anything about energy. These shifts are popping out across several industries, primarily hydro, biomass and wind energy.


The solar industry has really grown into its own it's own unstoppable machine over the past decade. Out of all the innovation within the smaller solar industry within the larger renewables industry we have found the Photovoltaic (PV) energy and Thermal energy have become the two major sub-segments where the majority of product and development has taken place.

Within these sub-segments PV is much more mature, we will look more into the reasons for this timeline of development, but it should be noted that there is much more activity of this technology for this reason. That said, thermal energy has made a truly remarkable impression within solar in a short period of time as the




The application of solar cells for energy, carried out by converting solar energy directly into solar electricity.1


The birth of PV technology can be traced back to the early 19th century when French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered a physical phenomenon - conductance rises with illumination - in year 1839. While working with metals electrodes he made this startling discovery.

From this discovery came many more. Over the next century few scientists unknowingly came across various relevant discoveries. In 1873 and '76 two scientists discovered the importance of selenium in creating the photovoltaic effect - photons knocking electrons into a higher state of energy, creating electricity. Later, in '87 another scientist discovered that UV rays increased the photovoltaic effect.

By 1918 polish scientist, Jan Czochralski, had created the first silicon solar cell, similar to the solar cell panels we now know today. From this springboard, solar cell developments took place relatively quickly. As this technology grew its application became more widespread. Once 1980 came around there was a large scale market competitor, ARCO Solar, and by 1981 solar cars were already in the pipeline.

Modern Day

At this point PV has developed into essentially two segments, large scale and small scale. Large scale PV encompasses large plants that use PV as a source of energy that will hopefully replace other producers for local neighborhoods, towns, cities, etc. On the other hand small scale is the more common rooftop installations that homeowners do in order to shift away some of their energy bill to self sustaining energy, look cool, inspire change, or simply to keep up with the Joneses.

Whatever the case may be, these two segments are growing very quickly and the forecast looks promising for this now well developed technology.

Solar Thermal


Technology for harnessing solar energy to create thermal energy, hence solar thermal.


Although Solar Thermal has not gotten the attention of PV in recent years, the birth of this technology can also be traced back to the 19th century. Currently, solar thermal technology usually refers to larger scale projects that placed hundreds of mirrors in a circular pattern in order to heat up a common water source, which looks to boil and produce steam in order to turn a turbine and produce electricity.


That said, looking at an ad from 1891, we can see that a different interpretation of the now prevalent solar thermal technology existed. Its main application was the water heater, as seen in the image here.

At this point, it is hard to really speak to the solar thermal technology beyond its initial use to heat personal home water heaters, as the current technology is just barely breaking through as highly regarded energy source.

Modern Day

Nowadays there exists over 600 MW of solar thermal energy, with an additional 14,000 MW in active construction and various other stages of the pipeline. These large numbers show the promise the world has for this technology, as it has gained a lot of buzz recently as it has proven to be very efficient and relatively cheaper than PV technologies.

Why Solar?

I say check out the rest of this wiki and then ask yourself this question once again. Start here.

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