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The History and Evolution of Photovoltaic Technology

At Electron Green, we strive to install solar PV cells free of charge on commercial roofs, and this technology has come a long way since its inception. Everything we offer to businesses countrywide wouldn’t be possible without the continuous innovation and evolution of photovoltaic technology throughout history. So, if you want to understand a little more about solar power and its origins before you commit to installing PV cells on your business property, keep reading as we take a deep dive into the history and evolution of photovoltaic technology from its early beginnings to the present day.

What Is Photovoltaic Technology?

Photovoltaic (PV) technology converts sunlight into electricity using specialised materials and devices called solar cells. These solar cells are made of semiconductor materials, such as silicon, which absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. The PV system consists of multiple solar cells connected to form a PV module or panel, which can be further connected in series or parallel to form a PV array. These arrays can be installed on rooftops, mounted on poles or structures, or integrated into building facades or glass windows. When sunlight falls on the PV module, it excites the electrons in the semiconductor material, generating an electrical current that can be used to power appliances, lights, or other electrical devices. This electricity can also be stored in batteries for later use or fed back into the electrical grid.

When Was Photovoltaic Technology Discovered?

The discovery of the photovoltaic effect dates back to the 19th century when French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel first observed that certain materials produced a small electrical current when exposed to light. However, it was not until the early 20th century that the first practical application of the photovoltaic effect was developed.

How Has Photovoltaic Technology Evolved?

In 1954, Bell Labs engineers Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson developed the first practical solar cell. The cell was made from silicon, a material that is still widely used in collar cell production today. It converted about 6% of the sunlight that hit it into electricity. While this may seem small, it was a significant breakthrough at the time. It laid the foundation for developing more efficient solar cells.

Continued Research in Photovoltaic Technology

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, research into photovoltaic cells continued to advance. In 1958, the first satellite powered by solar cells, Vanguard 1, was launched into space. This marked a significant milestone in the development of photovoltaic technology, as it demonstrated the reliability and durability of solar cells in extreme conditions.

The Energy Crisis and the Growth of Solar Energy

The energy crisis of the 1970s brought photovoltaic technology to the forefront of public attention. With oil prices skyrocketing, many governments worldwide began to invest heavily in renewable energy research, including photovoltaic technology and solar power. As a result, solar cell efficiency continued to improve, and by the 1900s, some cells were able to convert up to 20% of the sunlight that hit them into electricity,

The Rise of Grid-Tied Photovoltaic Systems

In the 1990s, grid-tied photovoltaic systems became more common. These systems allowed homeowners to generate their own electricity using solar panels and feed any excess energy back into the grid. This allowed for greater energy independence and could earn homeowners money through feed-in tariffs.

The Present and Future of Photovoltaic Technology

Today, photovoltaic technology is a rapidly growing industry, with solar panels installed in homes and businesses worldwide. The efficiency of solar cells continues to improve, with some cells now able to convert over 40% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. This, along with the continued growth of battery technology, has the potential to revolutionise the way we generate and use electricity. While it is difficult to rely entirely on solar power, you can combine energy from photovoltaic cells with traditional energy sources which can help reduce costs as well as help your business be a little more green.

How Important is Photovoltaic Technology?

Photovoltaic technology is fundamental and vital to the transition to renewable energy. Its continued development has the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the impact of climate change. As we look towards the future, it is clear that photovoltaic technology will continue to play an essential role in shaping how we generate and use energy.

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