The Evolution of a (Solar) Cell

Every second our sun produces enough energy to sustain the Earth’s needs for 500,000 years! But how do we harness this power? Through the use of the incredible and innovate solar panel systems, of course! But how do they work… and where did they come from?

The History

The actual science behind solar power comes from way back, when in 1839 Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect. For those of you playing at home, this effect explains how electricity can be generated from sunlight. He claimed that “shining light on an electrode submerged in a conductive solution would create an electric current.” And he was right!

The Development

Over the course of the next century, various inventors developed the first working solar cells, and further innovation would come in the wake of Einstein’s momentous discoveries in 1905 regarding the underlying mechanisms of the photoelectric effect. This new knowledge enabled Bell Labs to produce the first modern solar cell in 1954. While this project pioneered solar energy technology as we know it today, it was terribly inefficient. It cost $250 to generate a mere 1 watt of electricity, compared to $2 – $3 per watt from coal plants of the time.

The How

The extensive history from many great scientists and electrical experts have helped evolve this idea of converting the sunlight into energy, into the solar cells we use today. A solar system works when photons hit a solar cell, knocking electrons loose from their atoms. If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, they generate electricity. Multiple cells make up a solar panel, and multiple panels (modules) can be wired together to form a solar array. The more panels you can deploy, the more energy you can expect to generate!

The Now

Today, the advancements in solar have seen the cost drop dramatically, with efficiency increasing. With electricity bills sky-rocketing around the country, by comparison solar power has little to no running costs or maintenance, and will provide clean energy for years to come.

The Future

The future is already here! Modern systems provide you solar, storage, and powerful monitoring software, allowing you to control and monitor your consumption from your smart phone. They’re built to work together, with continuous, seamless communication, for a fully integrated system that’s far more than solar – it’s a connected home. But looking ahead? The next stage for solar in Australia is the use of batteries to store your power. This is because you are financially better off storing the energy for later use, rather than selling it back to the grid at a low feed in rate.


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