Solar power might seem like a new “invention“ but the fact is that the history of solar power usage goes back over 140 years. Inventors back then were just as worried about the world’s reliance on fossil fuels as they are currently.
From 1860 to 1880 Auguste Mouchout worked on a solar powered engine which operated by converting solar energy to steam power. He was motivated due to extensive coal usage in Europe and his knowledge that the coal reserves wouldn’t be around forever.
The French government funded Mouchout’s efforts and he later invented the half-horsepower engine, a steam engine capable of running a water pump. It was sent to be utilized in Algeria, which was highly dependent on coal. Algeria had abundant sunshine and also needed plenty of water.
At the same time, and Englishman in India named William Adams viewed Mouchout’s device as too hard to use for larger applications. He invented another solution; he built a rack that had many small mirrors around a stationary boiler, which let him get 2.5 horsepower from the engine.
Charles Teller worked with solar power from 1885 to 1889, inventing big solar collectors to be placed on rooftops. His primary objective was refrigeration and the invention was used to make ice. He also imagined his gadgets taming the African plains, making them more friendly to farming and development.
Back in 1903, the history of solar power usage shows that Aubrey Eneas built on Mouchout’s designs, making them bigger and more practical. He sold one finished system for just over $2000 to an Arizona doctor. After just a few days, it was damaged by a windstorm and was no longer useful. Another $2500 system was sold in Arizona but didn’t even make it through the first hailstorm.
Around the same time Henry E. Willsie created two solar plants capable of storing energy from the day for it to be utilized at night. At 15 horsepower, Willsie’s invention composed of flat plate collectors also boasted a superior power rating.
In 1906 Frank Shuman further developed and modified Willsie’s system. It resulted in an engine of 33 horsepower. After transporting it to a plant located in Cairo, the performance improved even more dramatically, with an engine of 55 horsepower.
For the next 50 years, not much was done with solar power. In 1954, photovoltaic cells were invented at Bell labs, and this was a big breakthrough in the industry. During the 1970s, people started seeing, once again, the need for solar power as gas pump prices increased.
Today solar power systems are fully open to individuals for use at their private residence or business use. It has not always been that way, by the middle of the 1980’s the Luz Company had developed various electric solar power plants.
Due to alleged lack of cooperation by the government the company was bankrupt and out of business by 1991, making solar power systems available to the masses.
The history of solar power usage began well over a hundred years ago as experiments conducted by a few inventors. It has become potentially eco-friendly and inexpensive energy for the future. For many who have solar power systems, that potential already has been achieved.