When Were Solar Panels First Used?

In Australia alone, over 2 million homes have installed solar panels. We rely on these systems to power anything from kettles to air conditioners. But where did this handy technology come from – and whose bright idea was it to capture sunlight?

Well, the movement started on a noisy rooftop in New York City.

Charles Fritz’s First Solar Cell

After the photovoltaic effect – sunlight turning into electricity – was observed in 1839 by Alexandra Edmond Becquerel, the research behind it exploded in the science community. Then in 1883, Charles Fritz had an ambitious idea to harness it.

The selenium cell solar array he invented was installed on a New York City rooftop. This was the world’s first solar panel. Selenium was used as the semiconductor with a thin layer of gold on top. While it only had a solar efficiency of 1%, it marked the beginning of a solar evolution.

The efficiency of current solar panels usually ranges between 15% and 20%.

A Brief Timeline of Solar Power Uses

Nowadays, solar panels are everywhere – from dry deserts to deep space. Each new use for solar was a huge step in clean, effective energy. Below, we take you through the important moments for solar power.

  • 1883 – Charles Fritts builds the first solar cell (1% efficiency)
  • 1888 – Aleksandr Stoletov develops a solar cell using the outer photoelectric effect
  • 1954 – Bell Labs produces the first practical silicon solar cell (6% efficiency)
  • 1955 – Western Electric creates a commercial solar cell (2% efficiency)
  • 1958 – Vanguard I is launched as the first solar-powered satellite
  • 1967 – Soyuz I is launched as the first solar-powered manned spacecraft
  • 1973 – Skylab is launched by NASA as the first solar-powered space station
  • 1978 – Solar-powered calculators enter the market
  • 1982 – Arco Solar builds the world’s first 1MW solar park

From the ‘80s, solar panel usage has grown exponentially, covering countless houses in Oz. If you’re interested in installing solar panels on your own home, our team of experts would be happy to help.

Get in touch with us online or call us on 1800 270 963 for an obligation-free quote today.

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