When Was Solar Energy Developed?

When Was Solar Energy Developed?

Solar energy has been used for centuries. Initially, ancient people used pieces of glass and mirrors to create fire and light torches. Years after that, the Roman bathhouses started placing huge windows facing south, intending to let the sun’s warmth inside.

But the modern solar power systems we see today were discovered thousands of years after the first use of solar energy. Here, on SolarDorm, you will find quality information about solar systems and the history behind them.

Let’s get into the history and find out when was solar energy developed.

When Was Solar Energy Developed

When Was Solar Energy Developed?

Solar energy, or photovoltaic technology, was discovered in 1839. A man named Edmond Becquerel was experimenting with electrolytic cells and came up with an unseen outcome. It was a cell that generated electricity when exposed to light.

The discovered photovoltaic effect was actually a process that produces a voltage when exposed to radiant and light energy. The year 1839 was the official year where it all started.

The first solar cell was produced and patented in 1888 by the Russian scientist Aleksandr Stoletov. A couple of years later, the first solar water heater was invented and patented by Clarence Kemp, a Baltimore inventor.

It took more than a hundred years for a complete solar invention to be found. Finally, in 1905 Albert Einstein published a paper about the photoelectric effect, introducing solar power to the world.

How Everything Started


Solar energy was used even by ancient people. They did not know that it could produce electricity since they did not know about electricity back then.

However, they used glass and mirrors to heat rooms by placing them on the south side of the buildings and homes.


The first photovoltaic effect was demonstrated in 1839. Edmond Becquerel was 19 years old when he discovered the energy-generating electrode that produces a voltage when exposed to different kinds of lights, including the sun.

Read more: Which Country Produces the Most Solar Panels? Top Statistics

How Everything Started

1860s and 70s

Using the inventions from before, in the 1860s, many other scientists started inventing and patenting inventions that may work on solar energy.

So, in the early 60s, August Mouchet discovered and patented solar-powered engines, while in 1878, he developed the first solar printing press together with his assistant Abel Pifre. Also, they exhibited their solar-powered engine, which brought them the gold medal for their efforts.

1880s and 90s

In this period, a Russian scientist Aleksandr Stoletov built his patented true solar cell.

A couple of years later, Clarence Kemp patented the first commercial solar-powered water heater.

The world officially found out about solar power in the 1890s, when Einstein published his document about the photoelectric effect and the energy light can produce.


The discoveries from the past century brought the first modern solar cell in 1954.

The modern solar cells were used in 1958 as a backup energy source for Vanguard 1 spacecraft.

Even in the middle of the 90s, solar cells were not so efficient, which is why they had little usage in everyday living.

In the 1950s, scientists searched for better semiconducting materials and options to build better-working and more efficient solar cells. The research resulted in the creation of a silicon solar cell for converting solar energy into usable electricity.

Still, this invention was unaffordable for most people.


The energy crisis in the USA triggered the federal government to make solar energy more affordable and available on the public market. This made many people see solar energy as an excellent option for supplying electricity in their homes.

In 1973, the University of Delaware created one of the first solar-powered houses that converts sunlight into heat and electricity. The building had a solar system integrated into the rooftop.

Also read: What Are the Limitations of Using Solar Energy?


Seeing the solar panels and solar fields around makes everyone curious to find out when was solar energy developed and how we got the things we have today.

It took decades and centuries for the most efficient solar cell to be invented. Thanks to the knowledge of intellectuals and technology development, most of us have a chance to purchase and invest in solar panels for personal use.

I hope this brief history has helped you learn about the roots of solar energy development.