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In the sun-drenched land down under, a remarkable revolution has been taking place — the evolution of solar power. Blessed with abundant sunshine and a commitment to renewable energy, it’s no wonder Australia has emerged as a global leader in solar power. But what is the history of solar power and what’s to come?

In this blog, we’ll dive into the journey of solar power, from its discovery in 1839, how the first solar cell came into existence, the remarkable transformation in materials and design for solar panels, ways the Australian government is welcoming this sustainable transition and more. 


The history of solar power — past solar use and discovery

It might be surprising to know that the history of solar power and energy starts well before the actual discovery of solar energy. The concept of harnessing the sun’s energy is nothing new and, in fact, dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilisations, such as the Greeks and the Chinese, used magnifying glasses and mirrors to focus sunlight for lighting fires, utilising the raw power of nature to its full potential. 

However, it was in the 19th century when scientific advancements in the field of photovoltaics paved the way for the discovery of solar power as we know it today. In 1839, French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel uncovered the phenomenon of solar power while working in his father’s laboratory. 

Becquerel discovered certain materials could generate electricity and voltage when exposed to light, which we now recognise as the photovoltaic effect. Becquerel’s discovery was said to have laid the foundation for the development of solar panels.


Creation and modernisation of solar panels

While Becquerel may have been the first to witness the photovoltaic effect, he wasn’t the first to develop the first solar cell, the electronic device that captures the sun’s energy and transforms it into electricity. 

In 1954, American engineers at Bell Labs developed the first practical silicon solar cell. These early solar cells achieved an efficiency of only 4%, but they marked a crucial milestone in solar panel development. Solar panels, the core technology behind solar power generation, have since undergone significant advancements, with research and development efforts now focused on improving efficiency and reducing costs.

The composition of solar panels has evolved to optimise performance. Initially, silicon was the primary material used, but as technology progressed, different types of solar panels emerged, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels. These variations offered different levels of efficiency, durability and aesthetics. 

Of course, research continues to explore materials and techniques to enhance solar panel efficiency and affordability, giving homeowners and businesses more opportunities to switch to a more renewable energy source.


The history of solar power in Australia — uptake and expected growth 

Known for its abundant sunshine and favourable environmental conditions, Australia has embraced solar power on a large scale. Australian households and businesses have steadily recognised solar power’s financial and environmental benefits, from reduced greenhouse gas emissions to greater energy independence, allowing individuals and communities to generate their own electricity and reduce their electricity bills.

According to Clean Technica, as of early 2023, almost one in three rooftops have solar panels, totalling more than 3.3 million households. Business owners were also no strangers to solar installations, with IBISWorld reporting a commercial solar panel installation increase of 8.5% from 2022.

What’s driving this rapid uptake? Various government initiatives, like the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), and reduced installation costs. Due to the pandemic causing a delay in manufacturing and shipping, solar panels experienced an unprecedented price rise. However, many experts have argued this increase is set to improve, predicting a price drop of 10% every year for the next decade, which is good news for residents looking to switch to solar.


Further government support for solar

The Australian government has implemented various initiatives and policies to support the country’s growth and adoption of solar power. These measures have played a crucial role in making solar installations more accessible and financially feasible for households, businesses and the wider community.

In 2001, the Australian government introduced the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. Under the RET scheme, large-scale and small-scale renewable energy projects, including solar power, receive financial incentives through certificates, which can be traded and create a market for renewable energy generation.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is an independent agency funded by the Australian government that aims to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies. ARENA has supported numerous solar projects across Australia, including research and development initiatives, large-scale solar farms and innovative solar technologies. 

Other government incentives and programs introduced to further solar adoption include feed-in tariffs and fund allocation funds to support research and development to help drive innovation, improve solar panel efficiency and reduce costs.


Become a part of history and book your solar installation with Green Energy Technologies 

As the timeline and history of solar power continue to evolve, it’s safe to say the future of solar power in Australia appears bright. The continued advancement of solar panel technologies, such as developing more efficient and flexible panels, promises to further reduce costs and increase overall energy output. 

So why not take advantage of decreasing installation costs and become a part of Australian history by investing in your own solar panel system today? Green Energy Technologies is a professional and highly qualified Queensland solar panel installer servicing households across Mackay, the Whitsundays and more.

Our GET360 solar energy package has everything you need to maximise your solar usage. We also offer ongoing support and maintenance to all our customers, so you’re never left worrying about the state of your system. Get a quote for our solar panel packages by contacting us today. 

Author Kon Flaherty

Kon has been a key solar consultant in the North QLD region for over 10 years. He was one of the founders of Green Energy Technologies and has assisted thousands of locals to save money.

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