Origins Of Solar Energy: How It Was Discovered & How It Works

Solar Energy Science

Solar energy is a type of renewable energy that is harnessed from the sun’s radiation. It is considered one of the cleanest sources of energy as it does not produce any harmful pollutants or emissions that can harm the environment. In this article, we will explore the origins of solar energy and exactly how it works.

Origins Of Solar Energy: How It Was Discovered & How It Works
Table of Contents
  1. Origination of solar panels
  2. How solar energy works
  3. Advantages of solar energy
  4. Conclusion

Origination of Solar Panels

The origins of solar energy panels can be traced back to the 19th century, when scientists first began to experiment with the properties of light and electricity. In 1839, a French physicist named Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect, which is the basic principle behind solar panels.

Becquerel observed that certain materials, such as silver chloride, would produce a small electric current when exposed to light. This discovery was later expanded upon by other scientists, including William Grylls Adams and Richard Day, who discovered that selenium had an even stronger photovoltaic effect than silver chloride.

In 1883, Charles Fritts, an American inventor, built the first solar cell using selenium coated with a thin layer of gold. The cell was only about 1% efficient, meaning that it could only convert about 1% of the sunlight that hit it into electricity. However, Fritts’ invention laid the groundwork for future advances in solar cell technology.

The origination of solar energy panels
Source: 1956 issue of Look Magazine

In the decades that followed, scientists continued to experiment with different materials and designs for solar cells. One of the key breakthroughs came in the 1950s, when researchers at Bell Labs developed a more efficient type of solar cell using silicon instead of selenium. This new type of solar cell was able to convert up to 6% of the sunlight that hit it into electricity, a significant improvement over earlier designs.

Over the next few decades, researchers continued to refine and improve solar cell technology. In the 1970s, the oil crisis sparked renewed interest in renewable energy sources, including solar power. This led to a surge in research and development, as well as increased investment in solar energy.

Today, solar panels are widely used to generate electricity for homes, businesses, and even entire communities. The technology has come a long way since the early days of photovoltaic research, and solar panels are now more efficient and affordable than ever before. While there is still much work to be done to fully harness the power of solar energy, the discoveries and innovations of the past two centuries have laid a solid foundation for the future of solar power.

How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy can be harnessed in several ways, but the most common method is through the use of photovoltaic (PV) cells. PV cells are made up of semiconductor materials such as silicon, which can convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight strikes the PV cells, it causes the electrons in the semiconductor material to become excited, creating an electrical current.

Solar energy works by converting sunlight into usable energy. The process involves several steps, including:

  1. Absorption: When sunlight hits a solar panel, the PV cells absorb the energy and convert it into an electrical current.
  2. Conversion: The electrical current is then sent to an inverter, which converts the direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). AC is the type of electricity that is used in homes and businesses.
  3. Storage: The AC electricity is then sent to the electrical grid or stored in a battery for later use.
  4. Distribution: If the electricity is sent to the grid, it can be distributed to homes and businesses in the area. The electricity can also be sold to the utility company, which will pay the owner for the energy produced by the solar panels.

Advantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy has several advantages over other sources of energy. First, it is a renewable energy source, which means that it will never run out. Second, it is a clean energy source, which means that it does not produce any harmful emissions or pollutants. Third, solar energy can be installed on rooftops and unusable land such as landfills, making it accessible to a wide range of people.


In conclusion, solar energy is a renewable and clean source of energy that is harnessed from the sun’s radiation. By converting sunlight into usable electricity, solar energy can power homes, businesses, and even entire cities. As technology advances, the efficiency and affordability of solar energy will continue to improve, making it an even more viable source of energy for the future.


  1. “History of Solar Panels: How It All Began,”, accessed March 24, 2023, ,
  2. “A brief history of solar power,” Energy Sage, accessed March 24, 2023, ,
  3. “Solar Energy History: A Look Back,” SunPower, accessed March 24, 2023, ,
  4. “History of Solar Energy,”, accessed March 24, 2023, ,
Tags :
How solar energy works, science of solar electricity, solar energy, Solar Panels
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