Solar Energy – A brief history

Solar energy has been used by the ancient civilizations since the dawn of time:

Solar energy has been used by man to make his life easier since the dawn of mankind. There is evidence present in different parts of the world relating to the fact that there have been many tribes that used to practice sun worship. They believed in the power of the sun as a source of energy renewal and life. These tribes were said to have existed in North and South America, but sun worship was also practiced actively by Babylonians, Persians, Hindus and Egyptians. One can even experience sun worship in the form of many rituals and festivities today, including the Yule log at Christmas and the Easter bonfire. In Greek mythology, the Sun Gods were Helios and Apollo. One can find a great number of temples and structures devoted to these Gods across Greece even today. All these evidences found throughout the world indicate that people belonging to different eras and different corners of the world, realized the importance of the sun. The sun has also actively been used for many other purposes by ancient civilizations.

Solar Energy History
Solar Energy History

Using the sun’s energy to heat and light homes:

Archeological findings have proved that the Greeks were amongst the first civilizations to use solar energy to heat their homes using the principle of passive heating. It has also been found that complete cities were built on the basis of this very principle, which happened to be the most ideal solution for heating needs. The Romans made certain alterations and advancements to the idea and thus, with the use of glass windows, trapped the heat of the sun within their homes to keep them warm efficiently. The Romans also did not allow anyone to obstruct sunlight entering into someone else’s house, and considered it a crime if a building was built obstructing its neighbor’s sunlight. The Romans were also the first to create glass houses, more commonly known as “greenhouses” today. These glass houses were used for the growth of exotic plants and seeds which needed hot or humid conditions to survive. This is how exotic plants from different parts of the world could survive in their country. The Romans also heated the water of their baths with the help of the sun. They also managed to heat their homes with solar energy through hot water pipes running underneath the ground.

Using the sun to cook and preserve food:

Ancient civilizations used the sun’s rays to cook and even preserve certain food items. In those days it was very difficult to travel from one country to another, and people embarking on such a journey could not possible carry fresh food supplies. The ancient people used the sun to preserve meats, fish and fruits and vegetables so that they could carry them with them on their journey. These food items would not go bad and if there was no game to be caught, the travelers could easily sustain themselves on these preserved food items. Spices were also preserved under the sun in ancient times, and this practice is still prevalent today in South Asia and South America.

The history of solar energy and solar hot water

It was discovered during the 18th century that a sheet of glass covering a box filled with water could provide ideal conditions that would allow boiling temperatures to be reached underneath the surface of the glass. This discovery laid the basis for the development of solar collectors that are being used for solar heating today; in fact all solar heaters whether they are being used to heat homes, or water for domestic use, work on this very principle. The initial solar water heaters were small scale DIY projects.

Photovoltaic panels:

Photovoltaic panels were invented in the nineteenth century and are based on the principle of the photodiode. These panels can actually convert solar radiation from the sun, into current electricity and they can power many appliances, homes and even entire villages and industries.

Uses of solar energy

In the case of solar energy, there seem to be no limits to its application and usage in our daily lives, whether on a small scale or large. It is true that solar energy is the perfect solution to all energy related problems that the world is facing today. In fact more and more people are getting inclined towards the idea of generating electricity with the help of solar panels because the natural resources of our planet are depleting steadily. The need to use alternative forms of energy generation have been given emphasis recently, because the conventional forms of energy generation through the utilization of fossil fuels are very expensive and also contribute greatly to polluting our environment. Solar energy has been found to be the most effective amongst all forms of energy. It is the least expensive and the most environmentally friendly as well. It is for all these reasons that more and more advancements and studies have been done to explore the uses of solar energy in today’s world.