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The History of Solar Power in the United States

Solar technology continues to thrive today, innovating the way homeowners and business owners can utilize solar energy. From roof-mounted panels to solar pergolas, today’s solar spans a wide array of designs.

You might be in-tune with today’s tech in the solar field, but do you know how long this renewable energy source has been around? Learning that the photovoltaic effect is nearly 200 years old might sound absurd, but it’s the truth. After all, the average solar panel has a very modern, technological appearance, so thinking about the 1800s equivalent is certainly strange. If you want to know more, navigate our guide below to learn about the history of solar power in the United States.

Solar Origins

So, where did the solar discovery start? The story doesn’t begin with the iconic panels, but instead the photovoltaic technology. This article primarily covers solar power in the U.S., but it’s important to start at a French discovery, first. As noted in this piece from the Institute of Energy Research, the discovery of the photovoltaic effect dates back to 1839. This discovery was made by French physicist Edmond Becquerel, bringing to light the crucial technology necessary for today’s solar energy.

The photovoltaic effect refers to when something can generate an electrical current upon exposure to light. Sound familiar? If so, that’s because it refers to the process that today’s solar panels still rely on for capturing sunlight and turning it into energy for businesses and households alike. As a result, the origins of solar are still felt today, though the industry still innovates in other ways, as we’ll delve into below.

Solar in the Seventies

The origins of solar technology date back to the 1800s, but it wasn’t until an energy crisis in the 1970s that solar became a prominent potential form of alternative energy. The reason for this is worthy of an entire article itself, but simply put, it came down to oil prices. During this time in the seventies, the price of oil had risen drastically due to embargoes between 1973 and 1974. Suffice it to say that in such circumstances, it made sense to explore renewable resources like solar as a viable option for the future.

That said, anyone familiar with the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS,) a solar power plant located in California, knows that it didn’t arrive until the early 1980s. As you can see, the seventies and eighties were substantial periods for solar innovation, thanks in no small part to the aforementioned oil crisis. Of course, this wasn’t the end of solar technology, so let’s discuss how the technology continued to be prominent in the early 2000s.

The Early 2000s

The early 2000s were a substantial time for solar power accessibility, especially for residential systems. For example, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides an opportunity to earn a tax credit for 30 percent of expenditures a homeowner puts into creating a more energy efficient residential property, with one method being photovoltaic property.

In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, you can find this solar benefit in Sec. 1335 of Subtitle C under Title XIII. Incentives like these continue today because they can help homeowners obtain a better return on investment, when eligible. The more accessible residential solar energy is, the easier it is for homeowners to turn their dream of an energy-efficient lifestyle into a reality.

Thanks to the long timeline of solar technology, experts in the industry have learned a lot, with that experience being invaluable to today’s technology. This experience is why you can find solar installers today who can conduct installations thoroughly and efficiently. Speaking of which, let’s move on to contemporary solar technology and how it can continue to evolve in the future.

Contemporary Technology

The iconic solar panels continue to help homeowners and business owners complete daily operations with clean energy. However, a common word throughout this discussion has been “innovation,” so what’s new about today’s tech? The ongoing production of solar power has led to new methods for capturing clean energy; remember the solar pergola?

Our solar panel system installers at Go Solar Power can work with various designs, including the aforementioned solar pergola. If you’d prefer to have a solar pergola over a roof-mounted system, speak with your contractor about how they can get it done. However, a pergola has another benefit; homeowners who don’t have a roof capable of supporting solar panels can use a pergola to access clean energy.

That said, another critical development in solar technology since its humble beginnings in the 1800s is solar batteries. A solar battery, such as the Tesla Powerwall, allows homeowners to go completely off the grid with their power generation and consumption. As your solar panels absorb light, they can convert it to energy and store it in a solar battery, where you can use it whenever necessary.

This means homeowners have access to 24/7 power with solar batteries, which can come in handy when storms knock out the power in your area. Moreover, you can install a solar battery as a backup power source for emergencies. Either way, these batteries continue to help residential and commercial systems thrive.

The Solar Industry Outlook

The thriving nature of this industry also helps people find jobs working with modern, energy-efficient technology up close. For example, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, in which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides critical data for many industries, puts the projected average growth rate for photovoltaic installers at 52 percent between 2020 and 2030. This means many folks will be able to work on the cutting edge of solar tech and see firsthand how it can help homes and businesses. Now, you’re privier to the history of solar power in the United States, as well as a bit of the French history, too. Whether you want to be a part of the industry or contact a professional to install solar systems, you can start taking the first steps today. That might sound generic, but it’s true; access to solar energy is easier to find than you might expect. You can always contact the team at Go Solar Power if you’re looking for a quote on a system, making the planning stages efficient and effective.

The Go Solar Power Blog

Our blog is your trusted source for all things related to solar energy and sustainable living. Explore a wealth of articles written by experts in the field, covering topics such as the latest advancements in solar technology, tips for maximizing energy efficiency at home, success stories from individuals who’ve made the switch to solar, environmental impact insights, and much more. Whether you’re a solar enthusiast, a homeowner considering solar panel installation, or simply curious about renewable energy, our blog offers a diverse range of informative and engaging content to empower you on your journey towards a cleaner and greener future.

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