Since the beginning of humanity, people have relied on the sun for their daily needs. Whether it is to grow the crops that they eat, dry clothes or warm their family, people have relied on the resource of the sun for sustainability. It was not until people started to get the idea of managing this energy source, that people were able to fully take advantage of the sun.
In 1767, a Swiss scientist discovered a practical way to harness the energy of the sun. Horace de Saussure invented the “solar hot box,” the first devise to attract and capture the energy capabilities of the sun. The main uses of this primitive solar box consisted of cooking food, distilling water and pumping water for irrigation. It was not until the 1880’s that America caught on to this new source of energy.
Introduced by John Ericcson, this engineer created solar power engines, used for power steam generators onboard ships. The most famous person credited with exposing solar capabilities to the west, however, was Clarence Kemp, the first man to patent solar water heaters in 1897. His invention caught on so well, that within seven years, thirty-percent of houses in California were using his invention. This was just the beginning of solar energy’s popularity within the US.
In 1908, Carnegie Steel Company’s William J. Bailey produced the solar panels we are most familiar with today. The popularity of the solar power boom peaked around the end of World War I, when “more than 4,000 rooftop solar water heaters had been sold, and more than 60,000 were in place” (EIA). Shortly after this, scientists discovered the possibilities of solar energy in space. Even to date, many satellites and space projects take advantage of this renewable energy source.
Unites States President Jimmy Carter played an integral part in maintaining the popularity of solar panels for domestic use. Among soaring prices and shortages in petroleum, the President encouraged citizens to take advantage of solar opportunities. He had solar panels installed in the White House, and offered numerous incentives to the American People who used solar heating. His encouragement was so successful that by the early 1980’s, over one-hundred national solar-heating manufacturers and suppliers were in business.
An additional boost for solar energy was the creation of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Solar Energy Research Institute, soon to be known as National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These organizations increased knowledge and practicality of solar power usage, and kept it in the minds of the U.S. government. Because of them, the first solar power plant, Luz International, was built in 1985. This plant was responsible for huge cuts in the expense of solar power. However, after less than a decade, the plant substantially lost its practicality. Critics site a stabilization of natural gas and electricity costs, high operating and maintenance costs for the solar plant, and...