A Timeline Of Solar Power

Australia has the highest uptake of solar globally, with one in four homes sporting solar panels on its roof. But it didn’t happen overnight. Let’s take a look at how it all began.

In this Article:
The early days of solar
Solar through the years
Solar power today

1767    Horace de Sassure, a scientist from Switzerland, builds the world’s first solar collector. 


1839    The PV effect was discovered by Edmond Becquerel, a French scientist.


1905    Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect – he won a Nobel Prize for this in 1921 


1941    Russell Ohl invents the solar cell. 


1950s    CSIRO leads research to use solar power to heat water. 


1953    The birth of ‘modern’ solar. PV technology is born in the US, with a silicon PV cell – the first to be able to convert enough solar energy to power everyday devices – developed at Bell Labs. 


1955    The world’s first commercial building solar water heating is opened. 


1964    NASA’s Nimbus satellite is powered by a 470-watt PV. 


1970s    Solar power is used for navigation warning lights and horns on many offshore gas and oil rigs. 


1978    What is believed to be the world’s first fully powered home is built in Pearcedale, Melbourne. 


1979    Jimmy Carter installs solar panels on the White House. 


1981    The first solar-powered aeroplane is built 


1982    VW in German tests PV mounted onto station wagon roofs to generate 160 watts for ignition systems. 


1989    UNSW develops the world’s first solar PV system with 20% efficiency. 


1998    AGL commissions Australia’s first solar generator – 1250 cells generating 80w of power. 


2005    Australia is the world’s fourth-largest solar energy producer.


2016    Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack are released in Australia. 


2018    More than 2 million rooftop solar power systems have been installed in Australia.


2021    COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the supply chain of polysilicon, silver, copper and solar glass. This coupled with high demand for solar panels sees a short-term price spike.


2022    A German energy firm announced it is investing in a pilot project centred around the deployment of floating solar technology in the North Sea.

Check out the extensive range of solar PV products at your local Gemcell Member branch.

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