top of page

Illuminating the Past: A History of Solar Energy

A set of solar panels with a sun casting shadow overthem

In the vast tapestry of human history, the story of solar energy weaves a thread that spans millennia. From the dawn of civilization to the present day, the sun has been an ever-present source of inspiration and sustenance for humanity. Let us embark on a journey through time, tracing the evolution of solar energy from ancient times to the modern era.

Ancient Beginnings

The roots of solar energy stretch back to antiquity when ancient civilizations first began harnessing the power of sunlight for practical purposes. In ancient Egypt, the sun god Ra was worshipped as the bringer of light and life, symbolising the importance of solar energy to the ancient Egyptians' daily lives. They used simple solar technologies such as sundials and solar ovens to track time and cook food, laying the foundation for future innovations in solar energy.

Early Innovations

The quest to harness solar energy continued throughout the ages, with notable advancements emerging in the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Greek philosopher Archimedes famously used mirrors to concentrate sunlight and ignite enemy ships during the Siege of Syracuse in 212 BCE, showcasing the potential of solar power as a weapon of war. Meanwhile, the Romans developed sophisticated solar architecture, utilising south-facing windows and thermal mass to capture and store solar heat in their buildings.

Modern Milestones

The modern era of solar energy dawned in the 19th century with the discovery of the photovoltaic effect by French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839. This groundbreaking discovery laid the groundwork for the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which directly converts sunlight into electricity. In 1954, Bell Laboratories introduced the first practical solar cell, ushering in a new era of solar energy innovation.

Contemporary Advances

Since then, solar energy technology has undergone rapid advancements, driven by a growing awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy. Today, solar panels adorn rooftops, power remote communities, and even orbit in space, harnessing the boundless energy of the sun to create a cleaner, more sustainable future for all.

As we reflect on the history of solar energy, we are reminded of humanity's enduring relationship with the sun. From ancient civilizations to modern societies, the quest to harness solar power has been a constant thread woven throughout our collective history. As we stand on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution, let us draw inspiration from the past as we forge ahead towards a brighter, solar-powered future.


bottom of page