The solar energy timeline is a long-running series of events that truly changed the world. So, when were solar panels introduced into this crazy world?
While the boom of the solar industry has been in the last decade, the history of solar energy actually spans back to the 19th century. It may come as a shock to you that solar energy was first introduced in 1839, almost 200 years ago. Edmond Becquerel, a 19-year-old physicist, came across the very first photovoltaic cell, which is defined as a “process that produces a voltage or electric current when exposed to light or radiant energy (1).” Edmond’s studies of light and electricity were the starting point of technical advancements made as years went on.
So…what happened next?
There were many significant scientific breakthroughs throughout the next 200 years. This includes but is not limited to:
1882: Abel Pifre creates the first “solar engine.” This solar engine produces enough electricity to power a solar printing press.
1884: Charles Fritts installs solar panels on a rooftop in New York City
1912-1913: The world’s first solar thermal power plant is created
1947: Passive solar houses become popular following post-war energy scarcity
- Passive solar energy is defined as energy that still uses the sun to heat your home, but without using expensive photovoltaic cells and mechanical systems
1967: The Soviet Union’s Soyuz 1 is the first solar-powered spacecraft to hold humans
1973: A building named “Solar One” is built by The University of Delaware. This is the first building powered by solar energy exclusively
1974: Solar energy is mandatory in federal buildings according to the Solar Heating and Cooling Demonstration Act
1977: The Solar Energy, now known as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is established by Congress
1977: The US Department of Energy is created
1981: The Solar Challenger is the world’s first solar long-distance aircraft
1982: First solar farm in Hesperia, California
1985: Lithium-ion batteries, used to store renewable energy, are developed
2001: Home Depot starts selling solar power systems for residential properties.
2009: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) supplies $90 billion in clean energy investments and tax incentives
2015: Tesla creates the lithium-ion powerwall battery pack so rooftop solar owners can store electricity
2016: Solar installations hit one million in the United States
2017: The solar industry employs more people than the fossil fuel industries in the US
2019: The Dutch North Sea is installed–the first offshore floating solar farm
2020: Solar plants are declared cheaper to build than maintaining an already in-use coal plant
2021: Apple is working on the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to store energy from its 240 megawatt-hour solar farm based in California (2)