The sun is the largest energy source in the solar system. In fact, more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than the entire world uses in one year! And every living thing on earth, even microbes deep in the blackest reaches of the ocean, depends on the sun for life, but we’ve only just begun to tap into its full potential.
History of humans and solar energy
Humans have been tinkering with solar energy since the dawn of time. Ancient civilizations used building techniques that stored the sun’s energy during the day to keep their homes warm at night. It wasn’t until the 1950s that technology was developed to convert the sun’s energy into electricity using photovoltaic cells, or what we today call solar panels. One of the first uses of a solar panel was on the Vanguard I space satellite, launched in 1958.
A solar-powered future
Innovations in solar technology continue to improve its efficiency, size and cost, making it more pervasive throughout society. The trend is leaning toward incorporating solar into more buildings, beyond merely using panels placed upon the roof. Some of these new applications include: solar shingles, solar film, solar roadways, and solar windows.
Other innovations being explored are: the solar orb, solar cars (commercially available), solar balloons, nanowires, and working with the infrared spectrum. Green Mountain Energy is excited about the advances in solar technology and the growing part this pollution-free resource will play in our lives. A solar future is closer than you may think! Learn more about solar power on our Renewable Energy 101 page.