The History of Solar Energy


Solar energy has a long history dating back to the 7th century B.C. but was not where we know it today until the 1950s.  The first signs of solar energy being put to actual use was to make fire.  Although the technology has evolved from humans using sunlight to light fires by magnifying glass to the advanced solar panels we know today, the history of solar energy is an interesting story. 

There is not one society that can be credited for the use of solar energy, there were a number of contributions from early civilizations.  Many early civilizations are credited to using the sun to cultivate fire.  In addition, they used solar energy to create sunrooms in buildings. These rooms used windows to direct sunlight to a specific section of the room.  In Roman times, there were called bathhouses.  From there, in the 1700s, scientists began harvesting the suns power to run ovens for long voyages as well as steamboats.

From the longtime of societies utilizing the sun to harvest solar power, scientists were able to start the development of solar panels in the late 1800s.   Here is a list of the contributors to the creation of solar panels:


  1. Edmond Becquerel – He was a French scientist that invented the solar cell. He determined light could increase electricity generated when two metals electorates were placed into a conducting solution.  
  2. Willoughby Smith – In 1873, he discovered that selenium had photoconductive potential
  3. WIliam Gryalls Adams and Richard Evans Days – In 1876, they discovered that selenium created electricity when exposed to sunlight.
  4. Charles Fritts – In 1883, he produced the first solar cells.
  5. Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearsons – They created silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell in 1954.

It is notable to say that the first silicon solar cell could only convert sunlight at 4% efficiency.    By 1960, the efficiency rose between 8%-14% with the next major achievement in 1985 when the efficiency became 20%.  By 2016, we were operating with a 34.5% efficiency.

As you can see, there were many contributors to solar energy history.  Starting by making fires, to creating bathhouses, all the way to the solar energy panels we know today.  Solar panels will continue to improve and create the clean energy that is sustainable for our planet. 

Sunshine Renewable Solutions, headquartered in Houston, TX, provides residential and commercial solar panel installations to cities all over Texas.  We have offices in Dallas, Amarillo, El Paso, Austin, and San Antonio, TX.  Take the first step and become a part of the amazing rich history of solar energy by allowing us to offer you a complimentary consultation.  Here we will explore together if solar panels are right for your home or business.