The first solar powered satellite is still in orbit
Solar energy is by far the most abundant energy resource on Earth. A whopping 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strike the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. An early adopter of solar power, the space industry began to use this technology to provide power for spacecraft in the 1960s. Vanguard 1 was the first spacecraft to use solar cells, and it’s the oldest artificial satellite still in orbit around Earth.
Solar energy was first discovered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839. He figured out how to create an electrical current in a conductor that’s hit by the sun’s rays. The first commercial photovoltaic cell was invented in 1954 by Bell Laboratories. The first solar cells were available to purchase in 1956 but the cost was $300 for a one-watt solar cell and few could afford them. The first solar-powered calculators were invented in 1978.
Did you know that the atmosphere absorbs and reflects some of the energy back into space, and clouds also reflect and absorb energy. Only 50% of the Sun’s energy actually reaches the Earth’s surface.
An advantage of solar energy is that it is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Solar energy has a substantially reduced impact on the environment compared to fossil fuels. Solar is an inexhaustible source of energy with the most potential as it will continue to produce solar power as long as the sun is there and it leaves no carbon footprint.
There are also disadvantages of solar energy. For instance, it is not 100% reliable. When the sun isn’t shining, there is no generation of energy. Most people would have to invest in a battery backup system. There are high initial costs. Materials used to make solar panels can cause pollution. Sometimes a large space is required to install solar panels.
Over the past decade, the cost of solar has fallen dramatically. New technologies promise to increase efficiency and lower costs further. Solar Energy will soon be unbeatable compared to fossil fuels.
Solar energy has come a long way in a decade. Back in 2010, the global market was small and highly dependent on subsidy regimes in countries such as Germany and Italy. Now there are more than 115 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed across the world, which is more than all other generation technologies put together. It is also increasingly low cost, especially in sunnier regions where it has already become the lowest-cost form of new electricity generation.