Solar energy is the cleanest, safest and most reliable energy source in the future. The best way to use solar energy is to use the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic power generation is used to directly convert incident sunlight into electrical energy. Its history began in 1839 with the photovoltaic effect discovery. However, photovoltaic power generation has been used for energy supply for more than one hundred years.
The birth of photovoltaics
In 1883, American inventor Charles Fritts invented the first solar cell by covering a selenium semiconductor with an extremely thin layer of gold to form a semiconductor-metal junction. The device's conversion efficiency is only around 1%, but it demonstrates the potential of photovoltaic technology as a means of generating electricity.
Over the next few decades, researchers continued to experiment with different solar cell materials and designs, with varying degrees of success.
In 1954, researchers at Bell Laboratories, including Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson, created the first monocrystalline silicon solar cell with a conversion efficiency of 6%. This breakthrough marked the birth of photovoltaic power generation technology.
Development of Photovoltaic Technology
Over the ensuing decades, photovoltaic technology continued to evolve and improve, with new materials and designs leading to higher conversion efficiencies and lower costs. The oil crisis of the 1970s also helped spark interest in renewable energy, including solar.
On March 17, 1958, the second artificial satellite of the United States, using chemical batteries and photovoltaic cells, was launched into space through a launcher. This small satellite laid the foundation for the use of solar cells, which have since been gradually developed for space exploration.
In 1976, the Australian government decided to operate the entire telecommunications network of the outback through photovoltaic cell stations.
Since 1983, the U.S. Coast Guard has been using photovoltaics to power its signal and navigation lights. At this time, the U.S. accounted for approximately 21% of the global PV market, which primarily provides solutions for stand-alone systems.
Since 2007, photovoltaic power generation technology has continued to make breakthroughs. At the same time, with the continuous popularization of the concept of global low-carbon life, global solar energy has entered a stage of rapid development, and various countries have introduced government subsidy policies.
From 2008 to 2013, the annual growth rate of newly installed photovoltaic capacity remained above 50%, and even reached nearly 80% in 2011.
Photovoltaic technology is used today in a wide range of applications, from small solar panels for individual homes and businesses to large solar power plants that power entire communities. The annual installed photovoltaic capacity in the world has increased from 16GW in 2010 to 260GW in 2022.
As research and development continues, we are likely to see more efficient and affordable solar cells in the coming years, helping to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change.
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