The first experiments done with the photovoltaic effect was demonstrated by a physicist named Edmond Becquerel at the surprisingly young age of 19. He toiled night and day in his father’s lab to produce the first photovoltaic cell in 1839.While the effects of his creation wouldn’t be a major game changer at the time, today it’s the basis of all solar power. Mr. Becquerel’s invention could be one of the ways we save our climate and provide clean and renewable energy to our homes, and businesses. Since a young French Physicist created the photovoltaic cell there has been numerous advances in the technology. Albert Einstein wrote a paper regarding his quantum theory of light, which would later explain how these cells that capture energy made by electrons could be harnessed as electricity. This was in 1905 and he received a Nobel Prize for it.
We saw the technology of what would later become the first modern photovoltaic cell employed by NASA on the Vanguard satellite in 1958.
These new solar cells wouldn’t be a main power source for the satellite, since they were largely untested, and would supplement the main battery source as necessary. NASA at the time was on a hunt to figure out how to make the satellite’s mission longer without having to change the craft. Adding more batteries could mean more weight and a redesign of the satellite. What they found was solar panels on the outside of the Vanguard could extend the satellite’s mission without significantly changing the satellites weight. This would give them the best weight to power ratio for the satellite.
The beginning of the photovoltaic cells industry
After the success of the Vanguard, the idea of the solar cell, or PV cells had caught on with industry and science. Companies began looking into the future of energy, and preparing to meet it head on. Exxon, for example, started projects that were looking thirty years in the future when they founded the Solar Power Corporation. From here the solar PV cell became what we see today.
One of the primary benefits of making solar cells is the main ingredient is silicon. Silicon is cheap, and can be found around the world. Silicon is one of the most abundant elements on planet earth, and can be found in common sand. So producing the PV cells isn’t reliant on anything rare, and can be done with little harm done to the earth. There’s no strip mining, no drilling or fracking required!
Photovoltaic cells give us the opportunity to harvest a massive power source, one that is being widely ignored, and is with us every day. The sun. The energy absorbed into these cells from the sun stand to reduce and help eliminate our need for fossil fuels. Regardless of what one believes about climate change, it’s an unquestionable reality that we are running out of fossil fuels. The quicker we find an alternative energy source the better. We stand a better chance of maintaining and improving technology in comfort rather than emergency necessity. Societies are growing, not only in number but in infrastructure and technology. Undeveloped nations are becoming developed, and their demand for fossil fuels could meet ours very soon. This increase in societal needs is one that could be satisfied with photovoltaic cells.
In the United States, we have seen a steady rise in carbon emissions and have been since the 1800s. These carbon emissions are more than doubling every few years and stand to have a lasting effect on our environment.
This effect could include interruptions in the hydrological cycle, which could cause severe droughts. Many believe the wildfires in the southwest, and especially California are due to hydrological cycle interruptions. Other effects could create corrosive acid rain, rising temperatures and the death of thousands of different animals.
The use of solar PV cells, combined with other alternative energies like biomass, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric are already working to loosen the grip that fossil fuels have around us. The ultimate goal is to reduce and eliminate our need for fossil fuels. As a society and as a world we depend on energy to propel us forward. We simply can’t pull the plug on our energy needs, so we have to develop alternative sources that are safe, clean and renewable.
Our energetic need can be broken down into several different categories, but the two main categories would be transportation and electricity. Solar power will have a limited effect on transportation, but can have a major effect on electricity. PV panels have the capability to produce electricity and are now at the point where a home based system can power a home entirely independent from fossil fuels. There are some limitations of course, but these systems are becoming more efficient every day.
This doesn’t just aid in reducing fossil fuels to protect the climate, but can result in much cheaper electricity for people. The PV industry also stands to create domestic jobs with the demand for solar system installers and technicians. Many nations will be able to free themselves for a market controlled by nations overseas, and will foster fierce competition.The market will deregulate quickly and the cost of energy could plummet as solar electricity begins to power more and more homes. Conservative estimates state that 35 million homes in the United States could be equipped with solar panels. Solar PV systems have numerous benefits, they are silent, are simple, reliable because they lack moving parts, they do not produce by-products like exhaust, and if the fuel source depletes we have much bigger worries than a lack of fuel. The sun is an abundant resource that produces more power in 18 days that there are fossil fuels on the entire planet.
Our future is dependent upon energy, and the cleaner the energy, the better. Solar power is a clean, silent, smell free option to generate electricity from an abundant natural resource. Solar power gives us the ability to power our homes, heat our water and push society forward.