1997 – Solar Panel Industry Development
Innovation: Solar Panel Industry Development
By: United States/Germany
Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electric energy through a series of steps:
Photons in the sunlight are absorbed by a semiconducting material on the solar cell such as silicon. Electrons are knocked loose from atoms, which causes an electric potential difference. Electric current then flows through the material to make up for the electric potential-this electricity is captured. The atoms in the conducting materials only flow in one direction, thus the photovoltaic cells produce direct current electricity.
Solar technology development began in the 1860’s, driven by the notion of coal becoming scarce. However, solar technology development stagnated in the early 20th century when oil and petroleum became more widely available. In 1974 only 6 private homes in North America were entirely heated/cooled by solar power systems. The 1973 oil embargo and 1979 energy crisis put new emphasis on solar technology development. PV installations grew rapidly between 1970 and 1983. But installations began falling in the 1980’s due to lower oil prices. Since 1997, photovoltaic development has grown rapidly due to oil/natural gas supply, global warming, and the improving economic position of PV technology. PV production growth has averaged 40% per year since 2000- installed capacity reached 39.8 GW at the end of 2010. The recent growth of the solar panel industry has played a significant role in the advancement of green building. The incorporation of PV cells in building design promotes efficient environmentally-conscious alternatives to provide a building’s energy.