Solar energy has been utilized by the human race for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations used the suns energy to start fires and keep warm. They also warmed their homes by passive solar energy designs. Homes were designed to collect solar heat during the day that was released at night through the walls and floors to keep them warm.
Photovoltaics were discovered in 1839 by the French physicist Edmond Becquerel. Edmond found that electrical current in various materials could be increased when exposed to light. After another 66 years in 1905, we gained an understanding of Edmonds' work through Albert Einstein who clearly described the photoelectric effect, the principle on which photovoltaics are based. In 1921 Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his theories on the photoelectric effect.
Solar cells gained practical use in the mid 1950’s when AT&T Labs first developed 6% efficient silicon solar cells. By 1960 Hoffman Electronics increased commercial solar cell efficiencies to as much as 14% and today companies like Trumantech have developed cells with more than 20% efficiencies. This means that out of the total energy that hits the surface of a solar cell, 20% + is converted into usable electricity.
The first long-term practical application of PV cells was in satellite systems. In 1958 the Vanguard I, was launched into space. It was the first orbiting vehicle to be powered by solar energy. Photovoltaic silicon solar cells provided the electrical power to the satellite until 1964 when the system was shut down. The solar power system was so successful that PV’s have been a part of world-wide satellite space programs ever since. The sun provides endless nonpolluting energy to the satellite power systems and demand for solar cells has risen as a result of the telecommunications revolution and need for satellites.
The energy crisis and oil embargos of the 1970’s made many nations aware of their dependency on controlled non-renewable energy sources and this fueled exploration of alternative energy sources. This included further research into renewable sources such as solar power, wind power and geothermal power.
An economic breakthrough occurred in the 1970's when Dr. Elliot Berman was able to design a less expensive solar cell bringing the price down from $100 per watt to $20 per watt. This huge cost savings opened up a large number of applications that were not considered before because of high costs. These applications included railroads, lighthouses, off-shore oil rigs, buoys, and remote homes. For some countries and many applications, solar energy is now considered a primary energy source, not an alternative.
China’s investment in solar is huge and continues to grow at a rapid rate.
China became the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels back in 2008 and, since 2011, has produced most of the global photovoltaics on an annual basis. Industry estimates believe that China will have enough manufacturing capacity to produce 51 GW of photovoltaics per year by the end of 2017, which is over double the global production of 24 GW in 2010.
Not only are China the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels but they also managed to raise the largest amount of global solar industry financing in 2013, a whopping $23.5 billion. That is equivalent to the total amount raised in Europe in the same year.
Trumantech is committed to assisting China with its ambitious long term plan for solar energy. In the short term Trumantech is assisting on the current goal of achieving the pledge that the Chinese President gave back in 2009 at the UN climate summit in New York. That pledge was to produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2019. China is steadily moving toward that goal.
Water heating, space heating, and space cooling accounts for 72% of the energy used in an average household. This represents a huge market potential for solar heating and cooling technologies. Below are some of the advantages that solar energy gives.