The most critical advancement in the development of solar technology has been Photovoltaics, a solar energy system that uses semi-conductors to directly convert solar radiation into electricity.
The ‘photovoltaic effect’ – the ability to create an electrical current using solar rays – was initially discovered in 1839 by Alexandre Becquerel. Since then the technology has developed substantially, with modules becoming more and more efficient and cost-effective. Much of this research was done leading up to the 1970s and was commemorated by Jimmy Carter putting solar panels on the White House. They were taken down by Richard Nixon shortly thereafter, but the pioneering solar spirit lives on as people across the world continued to adopt solar panel systems.
Due to the continued adoption, companies have continued investing in the technology, which has caused the efficiency of most solar panels to increase to between 15-20% – the rest is lost as heat (in comparison, creating electricity from fossil fuels has an efficiency rate of ~40%). This has also resulted in a significant drop in price for solar panels. In the last decade alone, priced have decreased by over 80%.