Who Invented Solar Panels
Solar panels are common place in today’s society and hundreds of thousands of homes and business rely on this form of renewable energy to power homes, reduce energy costs and lower the rates of carbon emissions being released into the earth’s atmosphere each year. The benefits of solar panels are countless and this enhanced by the ability to sell back unused energy to the National Grid and earn double your original investment through a government scheme known as the feed-in tariff.
The modern solar panel is a high efficiency design that can produce a large part of a buildings energy, many people assume that these panels are a new invention, the reality is that they been around for over 100 years, the question is “who invented solar panels?” There are different people that can lay claim to the invention of solar panels and each has played an important role in the advancement of solar energy.
The discovery of photovoltaic effect
The answer to “Who invented solar panels?” is hard to attribute to one person, but a large amount of credit has to go to a French scientist named Antoine Cesar Becquerel. As a young scientist in 1839, Becquerel noticed that an electrode when submerged in electrolyte solution was able to produce electricity upon contact with light. Upon this discovery Becquerel along with others worked on the building of a working solar cell, despite their expertise attempts proved unsuccessful due to numerous engineering difficulties.
First working solar cell
Another common answer to “who invented solar panels?” is an American inventor named Charles Fritts. It is Fritts who is credited as being the first person to create a working solar cell. In 1882/3, Charles Fritts produced the first working photovoltaic cell in the world. Although he is not the first person to discover and visualise photovoltaic power and how it can be used energy, Fritts is the first man come up with a device that could harness the energy. The cell produced by Fritts was able to produce efficiency levels of 1%-2%, something which may seem poor by today’s standards but was a significant step forward for solar energy in the 1800’s.
Silicon solar cells
Modern solar cells in today’s panels are made from silicon; this material is semiconducting and is renowned for excellent efficiency. In terms of these modern cells, another person that may be mentioned when answering “who invented solar panels?” is Russell Ohl. An employee at the famous Bell Laboratory, Russell Ohl first developed the silicon solar cell in 1941, however production of the cell was non-existent throughout the 1940’s and it took until 1954 before silicon cells were mass produced. The original silicon cells were able to transfer sunlight into electricity at a better rate than the cells produced by Charles Fritts at 4% efficiency, however this was still considered to be low.
Over the years the efficiency levels raised and reached 20% in the 1980’s. To this day technology continues to advance and modern systems are able to easily provide 40% efficiency.