Who Invented Solar Panels? No, It Wasn’t Elon Musk

The solar panel is an incredible invention that underpins an expected $ 223.3 billion market value by 2026. As we start to learn more about solar power, it’s important to understand where the technology comes from.

We’re going to look at the long history of solar energy, giving you some insight into its origins. The ideas below should give you some perspective on how we got to the point where harnessing the sun’s energy could be a viable alternative to the fossil fuel industry.

First things first, who invented solar panels? Let’s take a look.

Who Invented Solar Panels?

People have been trying to harness the sun’s energy for thousands of years. In many cases, these people have been effective in their own ways. For example, there are accounts of Archimedes using a massive solar reflector to burn attacking ships from the shore.

It wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that our understanding of electricity was good enough to produce something close to a solar panel, though. The first step of creating the solar panel is creating something called a photovoltaic cell.

This is a cell that absorbs photons from the sun and transfers them into an electrical circuit. This process sounds complicated (and it is), but the transfer actually occurs as a result of the light interacting with material rather than any fancy chemistry work in a lab.

The first photovoltaic cell was created by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839. Forty years later, it was discovered that selenium produced a photovoltaic effect as well. After those two advancements, many types of solar batteries and machines utilizing the sun for power were invented.

1884 and Beyond

The first proper solar panels were installed onto a New York City rooftop in 1884 by a man named Charles Fritts. At this time, our understanding of photovoltaic cells expanded considerably.

People could use the cell to transform sunlight into electricity, but the mechanics weren’t extremely well understood. After the first solar panels were invented, contributions to physics by people like Albert Einstein helped move things along considerably.

In fact, Einstein was one of the key drivers in understanding the photovoltaic effect. One contribution of his was the suggestion that light moves in packets (photons) that contain electricity.

The first marketable solar panel was patented in 1941. Bell laboratories filed that patent. The first silicon solar cells came shortly after. People started using solar power for all types of things.

Power for phone calls, motors, electronics, and satellites were becoming solar-powered. Since then, solar panels have expanded greatly and can be used to power just about anything.

If you’re interested in using this limitless energy source for yourself, you can find a “solar company near me” with great options to suit your home.

Want to Learn More About The History of Solar Panels?

So, who invented solar panels? In reality, solar panels came to be through a long line of contributions from different individuals. The first panels might have been invented in the late 1800s by Charles Fritts, but he could never have done so without the help of countless others.

Want to learn more? Explore our site for more information on solar panels, installation, potential savings, and anything else you need to know about solar energy.