A Century of Solar Power
The use of solar energy is not new—in fact, development of solar energy dates back more than 100 years, to the middle of the industrial revolution.
Several pioneering solar power plants were constructed to produce steam from the heat of the sun, which was used to drive the machinery of the time. At the same time, Henri Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect;
that is, the production of electricity directly from the sun. Becquerel's research was investigated and extended by, among others, Werner Siemens.
Photovoltaic power remained a curiosity for many years, since it was
very inefficient at turning sunlight into electricity. Early photovoltaic applications were geared more towards sensing and measuring light (such as a camera's light meter) than towards producing power.
advent of the transistor and accompanying semiconductor technology, however, the efficiency of photovoltaic power increased dramatically. Photovoltaic power became more practical. Over the years, many companies,
including Siemens Solar, have worked to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic power. Today, commonly available solar panels are 12% efficient, which is four times greater than only a few years ago.
Today, solar power is still used in two primary forms: thermal solar, where the heat of the sun is used to heat water or another working fluid, which drives turbines or other machinery to create electricity; and
photovoltaic, where electricity is produced directly from the sun with no moving parts. Siemens Solar manufactures photovoltaic panels which produce electricity directly from the sun.