How Long Have Solar Panels Been Around?

1954 When Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson of Bell Labs develop the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell, the first solar cell capable of converting enough of the sun’s energy into power to drive ordinary electrical equipment, photovoltaic technology is born in the United States.

When did solar panels start to gain popularity?

Solar power became a viable option more than a century later, in 1954. Bell Laboratories patented the first workable solar cell, which used silicon instead of selenium. These solar cells were first commercialized the next year. These sold for $1,785 per watt in 1955 currency, despite the fact that they were just 2% efficient, compared to an average of 18% efficiency now.

Solar power, on the other hand, became more practicable in the 1960s and 1970s. With new technologies, efficiency levels increased to over 10%, and the concept of renewable energy rose in popularity. In addition, space exploration was becoming more important, and solar technology appeared to be a viable alternative energy source for space flight. Calculators and watches powered by the sun have made an appearance. Solar power was widely available to citizens by the 1980s, and federal legislation provided incentives and tax credits for homeowners who installed renewable energy. Solar cell sales surpassed $250 million in 1983.

Since the 1980s, the pervasiveness and quantity of solar energy technologies has continued to develop. Countries all around the world have passed bills and rules to aid in the provision of solar energy to their inhabitants, and technology is just getting better and better. Furthermore, solar power is far more accessible now than it was when it first became popular. Prices used to be $1,785 per watt, but by 2020, they’re expected to be less than $1 per watt. Solar technology is quickly becoming one of the most important fields of technical growth in our history, despite its modest start.

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When did the first solar panel go into production?

Solar cells, which convert sunlight into electrical current, have been around for over a century, though early versions were too inefficient to be useful. Bell Laboratories researchers exhibited the first workable silicon sun cell in April 1954.

Solar cells have been around since an early observation of the photovoltaic effect in 1839. Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel, son of physicist Antoine Cesar Becquerel and father of physicist Henri Becquerel, was experimenting with metal electrodes in an electrolyte solution when he realized that when the metals were exposed to light, small electric currents were produced, but he couldn’t explain why.

Several decades later, in 1873, an English engineer named Willoughby Smith discovered selenium’s photoconductivity while evaluating materials for underwater telegraph cables. Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created the first selenium solar cells in 1883. Fritts had anticipated that his solar cells would be able to compete with Edison’s coal-fired power plants, but they were only 1% efficient in converting sunlight to electricity, making them impractical. For the next several decades, some research on selenium photovoltaics persisted, and a few applications were discovered, but they were not widely used.

Russell Shoemaker Ohl, a semiconductor researcher at Bell Labs, produced the next big advancement in solar cell technology in 1940. He was looking into some silicon samples, one of which had a fracture running across it. When this particular sample was exposed to light, he saw that current ran through it. This crack, which most likely occurred when the sample was created, actually defined the boundary between regions with varying quantities of impurities, resulting in one side being positively doped and the other negatively doped. Ohl had accidentally created a p-n junction, which is the foundation of a solar cell. Excess positive charge accumulates on one side of the p-n barrier, while excess negative charge accumulates on the other, resulting in an electric field. When the cell is connected to a circuit, an incoming photon can kick an electron into motion, causing current to flow. Ohl’s solar cell, which was roughly 1% efficient, was patented.

A group of scientists working at Bell Labs built the first practical silicon solar cell thirteen years later.

Engineer Daryl Chapin, who had previously worked at Bell Labs on magnetic materials, was trying to develop a power supply for telephone systems in distant damp places where dry cell batteries decayed too quickly in 1953. Chapin looked into a variety of alternative energy sources before settling on solar power as the most promising. He experimented with selenium solar cells, but they were inefficient.

Meanwhile, chemist Calvin Fuller and physicist Gerald Pearson were working on adding impurities into semiconductors to modify their properties. Pearson was given a piece of silicon with gallium impurities by Fuller. Pearson made a p-n junction by dipping it in lithium. Pearson then connected an ammeter to the silicon and illuminated it with a light. To their amazement, the ammeter increased dramatically.

Pearson, who was aware of Chapin’s efforts, went to his friend and encouraged him not to waste any more time on selenium solar cells, and Chapin switched to silicon right away.

For several months, the three focused on enhancing the attributes of their silicon solar cells. The difficulty in making excellent electrical connections with the silicon cells was one issue. Another issue was that lithium migrated through the silicon over time at room temperature, shifting the p-n junction away from the incoming sunlight. To tackle the problem, they experimented with various contaminants before settling on arsenic and boron, which resulted in a p-n junction that stayed close to the surface. They also discovered that the boron-arsenic silicon sold made good electrical connections. They joined together numerous solar cells to construct what they called a “solar battery” after making some other design changes.

On April 25, 1954, Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, announced the invention. They used their solar panel to power a miniature toy Ferris wheel and a solar-powered radio transmitter to illustrate its capabilities.

The first silicon solar cells converted around 6% of the energy in sunshine into electricity, which was a tremendous advance over prior solar cells.


The cost of purchasing a solar system is relatively expensive at first. Solar panels, inverters, batteries, wiring, and installation are all included in this cost. Nonetheless, because solar technology is continually improving, it’s realistic to predict that prices will continue to fall in the future.


Although solar energy can be collected during overcast and rainy days, the solar system’s efficiency is reduced. Solar panels must be exposed to sunlight in order to collect solar energy. As a result, a couple of overcast, rainy days can have a significant impact on the energy system. It’s also important to remember that solar energy cannot be collected at night.

Thermodynamic panels, on the other hand, are an option to consider if you need your water heating solution to work at night or during the winter.

Check out our video for a breakdown of how effective solar panels are in the winter:

Is it possible to use solar panels at night?

In a technical sense, no. At night, solar panels do not generate any energy. Solar panels’ photovoltaic cells require sunshine to generate power. But it isn’t the end of the story. Solar panels provide two options for evening energy.

Solar panels work tirelessly throughout the day to generate electricity from the sun. They also advocate solar energy systems that can be used at night. Through net metering and solar battery storage, you can continue to benefit from their energy production after sunset. So, how do solar panels work at night, you might wonder. They can do it in two ways: indirectly and directly.

The way we power our lives is changing thanks to solar energy. Solar battery storage and electric grid connection with net metering both let your solar energy system to produce electricity when your solar panels are not in use, allowing you to rock around the clock.

Net Metering Keeps You Connected

Net metering is possible when your solar panels are connected to the electric grid. Net metering functions similarly to a savings account where it is available. Excess electricity generated by your solar panels is fed into the grid.

In exchange, the electric company reimburses you or credits your account. You can use those energy credits that you banked with the electric grid during the day at night.

When your solar panels aren’t producing energy at night, net metering kicks in. Electricity can flow both in and out of your home with this bidirectional connection.

The grid connection ensures that electricity is delivered to your home regardless of solar panel production fluctuations. In this way, the grid acts as a collective solar energy storage system.

Net metering is a time-saving method. Your net metering credits should, in theory, cover the cost of obtaining electricity from the grid. It is not, however, available everywhere, and its future is dubious. Net metering is being phased out by several power companies. Alternatively, its advantages are fading.

Electric companies seek to maintain their place in the energy market while solar grows in popularity. In some circumstances with net metering, you may have to pay more to get your electricity back than you were originally credited.

Who is the inventor of solar energy?

  • Fast forward to the 16th century, when Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure constructed the first solar cell in 1767.
  • More innovation and advancement in the evolution of solar energy was made seventy-two years later. At the age of 19, French scientist Edmond Becqurel developed the Photovoltaic Effect, which states that when materials are exposed to light, voltage and electric current can be generated.

Until now, several innovators and scientists had contributed to the development of the contemporary solar photovoltaic (PV) panel through their contributions and experimental findings.

Is it true that NASA invented solar panels?

Solar cells were not invented by NASA researchers, but they did help keep the technology alive during the years when it was still mostly uneconomical. Solar power has long piqued NASA’s curiosity, dating back to Vanguard 1, the first artificial satellite to circumnavigate the world using solar cells. It was originally introduced in 1958, just four years after the first modern solar cell, however it was discontinued in 1964.

After the energy crisis of the 1970s, public interest in solar power dropped, but NASA remained a paying client, pushing for the development of more efficient and affordable solar cells. Solar-powered refrigerators, solar-powered air conditioners, long-lasting and low-energy lighting alternatives, solar-powered air monitoring systems, and solar-powered hot water heaters are just a few of the numerous offshoot items that have resulted from these continuous research efforts.

What was the first solar panel’s efficiency?

The original solar cells, developed in the 1800s, were just 1% efficient, much too inefficient to be used as a source of energy. Bell Labs didn’t create the first usable silicon solar panel until 1954, and it was only around 6% efficient.

There is technology available to improve the efficiency of solar panels even more. Using improved cell architectures, researchers were able to reach a 47.1 percent efficiency. Super high-efficiency panels, on the other hand, are often composed of more expensive materials that aren’t used in rooftop solar panels, and so aren’t now cost-effective.

Why are solar panels a waste of money?

Because solar panels cannot store electricity, their production will be reduced in overcast conditions and will be nil at night. As a result, most home solar systems necessitate the usage of a solar battery. When evaluating if solar panels are worth it for you, keep this additional expense in mind.

What is the most serious issue with solar energy?

One of the most significant drawbacks of solar energy technology is that it only generates energy when the sun is shining. As a result, the supply may be disrupted at night and on overcast days. Extremely sunny days can actually yield excess capacity, therefore the deficit caused by this interruption would not be a concern if there were low-cost ways of storing energy. As the world’s solar power capacity grows, countries like Japan and other solar energy technology pioneers are concentrating on producing appropriate energy storage to address the problem.

Is it true that solar panels wreak havoc on your roof?

So, when solar panels are put, do they harm your roof? As long as your solar panels are properly installed, they shouldn’t cause any damage to the exterior or infrastructure of your roof for most homes. Solar panels will not harm the integrity of your roof provided you deal with a certified licensed contractor and your roof is in good shape.

When solar panels are installed, the technicians will drill holes in the roof to secure the panels. These huge holes are for lag bolts, which are strong enough to keep solar panels in place while also being weather resistant.

While knowing that a contractor is drilling holes in the outside layer of your home may give you the creeps, this is all part of the process of mounting solar panels so that they are completely secure and won’t cause damage.

To protect your roof, the lag bolts are covered with flashing after the panels are installed. A thin roll of moisture-resistant metal or plastic called flashing is used to help block off this hole and keep moisture, wind, and the weather out. It diverts water away from the area, so you don’t have to worry about moisture seeping into your roof from solar panels.

Many homeowners are hesitant to install solar panels because they are concerned about the roof’s integrity. What if the roof needs to be replaced or repaired only a few years after the solar panels have been installed? If this occurs, the panels will need to be removed, the roof repaired, and the panels reinstated, increasing the expense of repairing or replacing a roof.