Important Facts About Solar Energy
Solar energy has grown in popularity over the past decade, with many homeowners taking advantage of state and federal incentives and historically low prices. Although the solar panel has become a mainstream technology, most people are amazed when they learn important facts about solar energy, its history, and predictions for the future.
Solar Energy’s Humble Beginnings
The generation of voltage and electric current in a material when exposed to light, was discovered by a teenager back in 1839. At the age of 19, a young Edmond Becquerel discovered this “photovoltaic effect” while experimenting in his father’s lab with electrodes covered in silver chloride or silver bromide. He later became a well-known French physicist who studied the solar spectrum, magnetism, electricity, and optics.
A little over a century later in 1941, an American engineer named Russel Ohl created and patented the solar cell while working for Bell Laboratories. Although the cells were not very efficient compared to today’s standards, his work led to the development of the first modern solar cell by Bell in 1954. Just four short years later solar cell technology achieved real fame when it was integrated into the power systems for Vanguard1 a space satellite that paved the way for solar to become the main power source for most Earth-orbiting satellites.
Solar Energy Today
The challenges associated with early solar panel technology were its high cost and low efficiency. When you compare today’s average price of $0.36 per watt, to just over 40 years ago in the mid-1970s, solar energy technology was expensive averaging around $76 per watt! In terms of solar efficiency, which is the percentage of sunlight energy that hits a solar cell and then is converted to electricity, was around 4% when solar was first introduced. Compare that to today’s average solar efficiency of 20% and the promising innovations taking place in the industry, it’s no wonder many homeowners are now ready to go solar.
The United States is the second-largest solar energy market and generator in the world, behind China. U.S. has increased solar energy generation more than 23 times from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW by the end of 2015. This is one of the amazing facts about solar energy and it’s enough to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes! The solar industry in the U.S. has California to thank for driving solar forward. Our sunny state is #1 in solar installations by a long shot, and according to the Solar Energy Industries Association generated 14% of its electricity from solar as of 2016, far surpassing any other state in the U.S.
Looking Towards A Solar Future
As scientists strive to reach maximum solar cell efficiency (yes there is a limit), optimization software and evolving battery technology will dominate solar innovations in the near future. The ability for homeowners to generate their own energy from the sun, and store it for use in the evening when electricity prices are higher has become increasingly popular and will continue to grow. As battery innovation and competition drive the costs down, this energy arbitrage will fuel battery adoption until it becomes standard in homes with solar.
The future of solar is definitely a bright one. There are many benefits to going solar this year and if you have been curious whether solar is the right choice for your family, call or text us today. Our experienced Energy Experts are happy to answer any and all of your solar and home battery questions. 951-678-7733