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The History of Photovoltaic Technology

The History of Photovoltaic Technology

The history of photovoltaic technology is quite interesting. The French physicist, Edmund Bequerel, first noted the photoelectric effect in 1839. He found that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when they were exposed to light. Albert Einstein is actually the father of photovoltaic technology. In 1905, he described the nature of light and of the photoelectric effect, on which this technology was based. He later won a Nobel Prize in physics for his work.

It wasn't until 1954, that the first photovoltaic module was built by Bell Laboratories. They listed this device as a solar battery at the time. Because of its expense, it didn't gain any momentum at the time. The space industry started using this technology in the 1960s in providing power on board spacecraft. Because of these space programs, this technology became very reliable and established. As a result, the cost of production began to come down. It wasn't until the 70s that the photovoltaic technology caught on with non-space applications.

Today, solar panels are seen almost everywhere you go. Tax incentives and rebates have also helped promote this industry. There are even solar farms that produce massive amounts of solar electricity. There is a solar farm that will soon be built near Fresno, CA that will produce 80 Megawatts of power. This will be built on 640 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. It will be 17 times the size of the current record holder, a 4.6 Megawatt plant near Tucson, AZ.  This solar farm will supply enough electric power to supply 21,000 homes. Solar power has come a long way since it was first discovered in 1839, and since Einstein brought proper attention to it. The history of photovoltaic technology has taken a number of paths, but it is clearly a leading path into the future.


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