History to Solar Energy

By: nathan

Solar Power History

"I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago." These are words of Sir George Porter (December 1920 - August 2002), Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, which today is a reality. The energy which is derived from the sun and responsible for practically all life on earth is today harnessed for generating heat, light, power and electricity for meeting global needs for alternate energy resources. Yet the concept and use of solar energy is not new. Early Greeks, Native Americans and Chinese have used it to their benefit by orienting their home and hearth toward the sun for centuries. The term solar power has today become synonymous with solar energy which is obtained by converting sunlight to electricity.

While the application span of solar energy now encompasses the domestic (including cooking and heating), commercial, industrial, farming, aviation and surface transport sectors, there are several technologies which are in place to generate this type of natural energy. In fact, solar energy has now found its place in every day use items like cars and calculators.

Back in historical times, solar energy may not have been known by any name, but its use has always been the backbone of agriculture ever since man learned to till the land and grow food or crops. We have seen the importance of this energy in medieval Europe where farmers deployed elaborate agricultural strategies to get the maximum out of sunlight for the wellbeing of their yield. Even today, sunlight optimization is the primary agenda for anyone who is involved in farming or gardening, starting from planning their planting schedule, strategizing row orientation, altering plant heights between rows, etc.

Man has always built his home to take the most out of available sunlight. Critical use of solar energy is evident in today's urban building designs where not only the building orientation but window placements and proportions and building materials are chosen to harness the most of this invaluable energy form. The importance of solar energy was realized by first century Roman architect Vitruvius who commented that home designs must be made according to the diversity of the climate of that particular region. Solar energy when deployed to supplement day lighting techniques, homes can save enormous amount of resources by making maximum use of sunlight during all the time that it lasts. The importance of solar lighting or natural light was appreciated way back in 6th century Rome and later corroborated by the British in 1832. In fact, it was only in the 20th century that artificial methods became the primary source of interior lighting. The energy and oil crises during 1973 and 1979, made people re-focus on natural lighting, but soon the interest died due to cheap available sources of energy.

One of the areas where solar energy is most widely used today is in the field of solar thermal applications, where the applied technology uses heat from the sun to heat water and space; for ventilation; for processed heat required for industrial applications, cooking, for water distillation plants, etc.
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