Six stunning solar facts

1. It’s way older than you think

The solar panels of today might look space-age but the process behind them is pretty old. Nearly 200 years old, in fact. It was back in 1839 that 19 year old French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the ‘photovoltaic process’. As amazing as this discovery was, it still took us about 100 years to figure just what to do with it.

2. It’s helping us explore the universe

Photo: Nasa,  creative commons

Photo: Nasa, creative commons

By the 1950’s we finally firgured out how to use Becquerel’s discovery.  And to make up for all that wasted time we set our sights high. Right up into space, to be exact.  

The US’s 1958 Vanguard I satellite - only the fourth ever - was the first to be solar powered. And ever since solar's helped power our quest for the stars through missions like the International Space Station (ISS). Floating 220 miles above the earth it relies on 260,000 solar cells to keep going. That’s an awful lot of solar power!

3. Solar panels are doing great things in wonderful places

Okay, it doesn’t get more wonderful than space, but back here on earth panels are finding homes on more than just our houses. For example, you might find solar panels floating happily on your local reservoir, soaking up the sun whilst also preventing your vital water from evaporating. Or if you’re a farmer in a hot desert region the shade from solar panels may just be the thing keeping your crops alive.

4. It could be a lot more than panels

As great as they are, solar power is about much more than panels. Thanks to the wonders of modern science the window that you daydream out of could soon be generating solar power or as could the road outside your house. Even your next fashion purchase could be soaking up the sun in the name of solar power.

5. It’s proving to be impossibly powerful

Solar’s been proving itself pretty useful in recent years. So much so that there’s a chance it's powering your screen right this minute! That’s because, for the first time, across six months in 2016 the renewable provided more power than coal in the UK. This was a significant milestone and a great sign of things to come.  

Photo: Andrew Aitchison,  Creative Commons

Photo: Andrew Aitchison, Creative Commons

6. Solar is VERY popular

Which is great, because we’ve got a whole lot more of it in recent years! Britain's first solar home wasn’t plugged in until 1995, but by February 2015 we reached the 1 million solar homes milestone. And now the power source is more popular than ever, with a recent government poll finding a whopping 80% of the UK public support solar. Why wouldn’t they when there’s so much to love about it?

Cover image: Andrew Aitchison, Creative Commons