Solar power is not new to humans; it has been harnessed for thousands of years before we had the new residential solar power we see today. The energy from the sun is used for cooking, boiling and producing heat for the home. The ancient Greeks, prominent among them was Socrates, were the first to refer to the possibility of using technology to trap the power of the sun. The Greeks built their houses about the position of the sun during the seasons of the year.

During the fifth century, there was an energy crisis in Greece because their usual source of fuel which was charcoal was challenging to find. The forests were already bare due to the unchecked felling of trees for fuel. The people had to ration their available wood and charcoal to last the period. The Greeks later applied the work of Socrates by planning their cities in such a way that they can harness the power of the sun and survived the crisis.

The Technology

The technologies necessary to harness the power of the sun gradually developed or became more advanced. The New England colonist copied what the Greeks knowledge of using the sun to create warmth during winter. In the United States, solar-powered heaters were sold toward the end of the nineteenth century.

An advanced way of heating the room was later developed. By absorbing solar power through panels, water is boiled in a tank full of water and kept for later use. In freezing weather, solar energy is channeled through coils hidden in a storage tank and generates heat.

Now, a wide range of advanced systems of heating the home is available everywhere. Everywhere in the world, solar thermal systems are put to use and countries such as Israel, Austria, and Cyprus have the highest number of solar installation.

The year 1954 marked the beginning of the modern solar energy discovery and the possibility of generating electricity from the sun. Bell Labs discovered silicon as a material with photovoltaic power. From then developed what we now have as solar cells which convert solar power into electricity. This discovery has experienced growth ever since as more research is conducted on solar energy.

Solar Cells

The most conventional solar cell is made from silicon and wired together to create the needed current and voltage output. The cells are protected round with an insulator and then covered with a sheet of glass.

Electricity is generated by the photovoltaic material in solar cells though this fact was not the discovery of Bell Labs. Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, discovered in 1839. Then about a century later, Bell Labs had their breakthrough in laying the foundations of the solar cells we have today. Using the language of physics, a solar cell is made from a p-n found in a silicon crystal. Small amounts of impurities are added to the crystal, and the junction is the interface within the regions. The side labeled is where electrons carry current, and the side carries electrons within the crystal itself.