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The Fathers of Solar

A portrait of Nikola Tesla, a founding father of solar, in a modern style blue color

It’s that time of year – time to celebrate the leading men in our lives who offer us wisdom and growth. This Father’s Day, we thought it an appropriate time to recognize the founding fathers of the solar industry and technology as we know it today. 

Alexandre Edmund Becuerel Discovers the Photovoltaic Effect

The concept of using solar energy has been around since ancient times; however, today’s concepts of renewable energy started around the 17th century. Dating back to Galileo’s invention of the lens, civilization started studying solar more and creating inventions to help harvest the sun in a more technologically advanced way. The first major milestone was an invention that measured light via two metal plates by French physicist Alexandre Edmund Becuerel in 1839. What we now refer to as a “current’. He was a mere 19 years of age at the time of this discovery, which ultimately led to the discovery of the photovoltaic effect. However, this innovative thinking wasn’t widely known until Albert Einstein’s nobel prize winning paper on solar power in 1922.

Following Becuerel’s lead, Willoughby Smith, an English electrical engineer , discovered that selenium’s resistance varied with its exposure to light, creating the foundation of photoelectric cells at the age of 45. While his1873 discovery was more important to the development of telecommunications, his selenium semiconductor paved the way for photovoltaic advancements.

Fritts Creates the First Working Solar Cell at 33 Years Old

Hitting gold in 1883 with solar energy technology, American inventor Charles Fritts is credited with the first ever working solar cell at the young age of 33 years old. This gentleman built upon previous discoveries by dipping selenium in gold. In all of its amazing glory, the invention converted a mere 1% efficiency. Fritts is often referred to as the true father of solar energy. Using Fritt’s cells, the first-ever solar array was installed on a New York rooftop in 1884. 

Weston and Tesla Apply for Patents 

In 1888, a gentleman by the name Edward Weston applied for the first-ever US Patent for solar cells, igniting others to conduct more research, development and efficiency. In 1901, Nikola Tesla patented his technology for a solar panel. The patent for this device reads, “method of utilizing, and apparatus for the utilization of, radiant energy”. 

Innovations Spark Mass Production of Solar Panels

While America was off building and inventing amazing things, innovations surrounding solar energy quietly slowed until the 1950s when Bell Lab scientists went from 1% efficiency to 4% by replacing selenium with high-powered silicon solar cells. Accredited to Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson, this breakthrough prompted the US Government to invest in solar cell technology, leading to the mass production of solar panels in the 1960s and 1970s. 

George W. Bush Implements the Energy Policy Act of 2005

In 2005, a Representative by the name Joe Barton out of Texas introduced a new policy that would spearhead the government’s efforts to increase the United State’s dependency on foreign fossil fuels and increase initiatives for going green. Signed into existence by George W. Bush, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has paved the way for the current Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which offers large tax credits for those who install solar on their homes and/or businesses. 

Whether it is developing solar energy technologies or developing young adults, Solcium Solar would like to wish all of the innovative, giving fathers out there a very happy father’s day!

Treat the father figure in your life to monthly savings through solar energy this Father’s Day by scheduling your free, educational consultation with one of our solar experts. 


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Solcium Solar provides a full suite of end-to-end renewable energy solutions including education, design, and installation services.

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