History of Solar

Solar energy isn’t as mysterious of a technology as it once seemed! In fact, solar energy can power all sorts of things nowadays – from cell phone charges to car batteries, trucks to homes, solar is the trend of the present and the wave of the future. Even though many of us are familiar with the concept of solar energy, have you ever stopped to think about where it came from?

Believe it or not, solar energy has been around for a few centuries, but its meaning has changed over time. Let’s take a look at how the evolution of solar energy and the use of photovoltaics helped transform the industry we know today.

When Was it First Used?

Back in the 7th century B.C., historians tell us that humans used sunlight to light fires with magnifying glass materials. This practice continued with the Greeks and Romans in 3rd century B.C. when they harnessed “solar power with mirrors to light torches for religious ceremonies.”[1] This practice became  normalized and the tool in which people started these fires in ancient civilization were called “burning mirrors”.1

Have you ever sat in a sunroom and enjoyed the warmth of the light coming through the big glass windows? Well, so have many Romans and other ancient civilizations when they used this design to direct sunlight into concentrated areas. For example, the Romans used this exact method to warm their iconic bathhouses.

Fast forward to the late 1700s and 1800s, when scientists could power makeshift ovens with sunlight over long voyages. Not only were sailors able to power these ovens, but they were also able to harness the power of the sun to produce solar-powered steamboats. It’s clear that even thousands of years before the invention of modern-day solar panels, capitalizing on the power of the sun in daily life was a common practice.1

Who Invented Photovoltaics?

Nearly 200 years ago, French scientist Edmond Becquerel accidentally discovered the photovoltaic effect. He experimented with an “electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes placed in an electricity-conducting solution” which resulted in an electricity generation increase when exposed to light. This was one of the many contributing factors to the invention of solar panels.[2]

When Were Solar Panels Invented?

While the development of solar panel technology didn’t come to fruition until the late 1800s, there were many contributors to its evolution. In 1873, Willoughby Smith discovered selenium had photoconductive potential, “leading to William Grylls Adams’ and Richard Evans Day’s 1876 discovery that selenium creates electricity when exposed to sunlight.”1 Shortly after this discovery, in 1833, Charles Fritts invented the first solar cells made from selenium wafers. This earned him credit from many historians for the invention of solar cells.1

However, today’s solar panels are made with silicon instead of selenium. With this in mind, many credit Daryl Chaplin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson with the invention of the first solar panel in 1954. This was made at Bell Labs and was a silicon photovoltaic cell, marking the true invention of P.V. technology because it was the first time that solar-powered an electric device for several hours.1 This silicon solar cell could only convert the sunlight at four percent efficiency. This is less than a quarter of what modern cells are capable of.1

Major Events in the History of Solar

  1. Solar panels in outer space– In 1958, the Vanguard I satellite used a tiny one-watt panel to power its radios. Later that year the Vanguard II, Explorer III and Sputnik-3 were all launched with PV technology on board. In 1964, NASA was responsible for launching the first Nimbus spacecraft, a satellite able to run entirely on a 470 watt solar array.1
  2. First solar residence- In 1973, the University of Delaware was responsible for constructing the first solar building, named “Solar One.” The system ran on a hybrid supply of solar thermal and solar PV power.1
  3. Solar-powered airplanes- In 1981, Paul MacCready built Solar Challenger, the first aircraft to run on solar power, and flew it across the English Channel from France to the U.K.NASA broke that record in 2001 when they reached 96,000 feet with their non-rocket aircraft.1

Going Solar with Momentum

Here at Momentum, we understand how important it is for families to make a seamless transition to solar power. This is why our team handles each part of the process from start to finish and is with you every step of the way. No matter the size of your solar project, Momentum is ready guide you to clean, price-protected energy! So, if you are looking to make the switch or want to learn even more about solar energy, our team is just a phone call away.

Give us a ring at 1-888-MOMENTUM!


[1] https://news.energysage.com/the-history-and-invention-of-solar-panel-technology/

[2] https://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/solar_timeline.pdf

Photograph of Edmond Becquerel circa 1839. Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Becquerel

Extreme Weather Across the United States

Over the last year Americans were flooded with headlines broadcasting extreme storms from across the country. These horrifying, destructive weather events occur all year and knock out the power to millions of American homes. Since 2010, roughly 77 million people have affected by weather-related power outages in the United States.[1] Even though we try to predict and prepare for these harsh storms, there is an extra precaution homeowners can take to protect themselves. We’re talking about battery storage for your solar energy system.

Battery storage systems have allowed homeowners nationwide to keep their homes up and running after a major weather event, even if their neighbors are still sitting in the dark.

Rolling Blackouts in the California Hills

In addition to fire season, extreme heat has caused overwhelming electricity surges on the West Coast for many Californians. The soaring temperatures have caused the state’s grid operator to shut off power to over 4 million people at times. According to Zeeshan Aleem of Vox, these blackouts “underscore how vulnerable the state’s electric grids are being overwhelmed precisely when people lean on them most for safety and comfort in extreme weather.”[2]

Not only do Californians experience rolling blackouts yearly as a result of extreme heat, they are no strangers to flooding, dust storms, winter weather and freezing temperatures. All of these harsh conditions contribute to power outages up and down the coast.[3]

Snowfall Over Texas

Climate change has made its impact all over the U.S. and has caught many Americans off guard with weather they never expected. Recently in Texas, residents experienced a cold snap resulting in unprecedented prolonged freezing temperatures, snow and ice. Although Texans have seen cold weather in the past, they had not experienced weather like this for so long. Chief Climate Scientist, Ernst Rauch, announced his firm documented “an increasing trend of instances in which critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids, have failed during extreme weather events. Due to the electrical grid failures in Texas during this week of extreme cold, extensive damage to lives and property has been done…”3

Hurricane Season in the Gulf

From June 1st through November 30th, hurricane season covers the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. At the end of the 2020 season in the Atlantic, there were a combined 30 tropical storms and hurricanes that caused over $51 billion dollars in damage with 430 casualties.[4]

Louisiana saw multiple storms and hurricanes throughout the 2020 season. Laura came ashore on August 27th with winds up to 150 miles an hour and causing $1.4 billion dollars in Louisiana just to the power companies alone. As one utility company president explained, “Hurricane Laura inflicted catastrophic damage on [the] transmission and distribution systems that resulted in approximately 600,000 outages at its peak and impacted more than 900,000 customers in total.”[5]

These are staggering numbers, and, unfortunately, they are only from one storm from one hurricane season. Imagine this happening three to four times a year – and doing so puts everything into perspective when it comes to the safety of your family.

Nor’easters in the Northeast

No matter where you live in the U.S., you are more than likely to experience storms that cause a power outage in your area. Residents of the state of Massachusetts are no stranger to pesky nor’easters. In December 2020, a storm blew in wielding wind gusts up to 70 mph leaving 21,000 residents without power in the first few hours. No more than seven hours later, this number more than doubled leaving 47,000 residents in the cold as reported by the Massachusetts Energy Management Agency.[6]

In situations like this, homeowners relying solely on the electricity company to restore power can sit in the dark with no heat or power for several days.

Momentum Solar and Battery Storage

Momentum Solar is proud to offer battery storage options to our family of customers. We have an exclusive partnership with Enphase – and with this, we’re able to provide unparallel fully integrated energy management technology. This means you can feel confident in your energy abilities during extreme weather conditions or other circumstances that leave your neighborhood in a blackout.

Get Started Today

With over a decade in the business, Momentum Solar has been dedicated to helping families make the switch to a greener lifestyle while offering clean price-protected energy. Over the years, we have evolved with our ever-changing planet and adapted our products to reach our customers’ needs. With the addition of battery storage to your home, you can ensure that your home will be powered up and running when your family needs it the most.

If you are interested in making the switch to solar or to learn more about our battery storage offerings, please give us a call today at 1-888-MOMENTUM.



[1] https://environmentamerica.org/page/ame/extreme-weather-map-fact-sheet#:~:text=More%20than%2057%20million%20Americans,five%20or%20more%20weather%20disasters.

[2] https://www.vox.com/2020/8/15/21370128/california-blackouts-rolling-power-outage

[3] https://wrcc.dri.edu/Climate/extremes_ca.php

[4] https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/2020-atlantic-hurricane-season/

[5] https://weather.com/news/news/2020-09-24-hurricane-laura-power-outages-billion-dollars-entergy

[6] https://www.nbcboston.com/weather/stories-weather/steady-rain-to-turn-to-snow-this-afternoon/2249321/