With soaring energy bills and the ongoing climate crisis, renewable energy is at the front of more and more people’s minds. In particular, homeowners have an increased interest in solar energy and want to find out more about solar panels for their home. However, solar panels and their trusty sidekick the solar battery are not a recent phenomenon. In this article, we’ll talk you through the science behind solar panels and batteries, how it began, and where we are today.
Origins of Solar Panels can be traced back to the early 1800s, when Edmond Becquerel was able to demonstrate the photovoltaic effect using an electrochemical cell that he had developed. By the 1880s, Charles Fritts was able to generate solar energy by using a layer of selenium covered by a thin film of gold, but this had very poor efficiency.
It wasn’t until 1941 that the American, Russell Ohl patented the first solar panel with a similar design to what is used today. Ohl had been working for Bell Labs, and by 1954 this design was used by Bell Labs to produce the commercially viable solar cells, which used silicon layers.
Then during the second half of the 20th century, advances in materials and manufacturing techniques contributed to the efficiencies improving and reduced costs. In turn, this made solar panels more practical and attractive for commercial and residential use.
By the start of the 21st century, solar photovoltaic (PV) technology had become a viable solution, and became increasingly popular as an alternative to fossil fuel based energy. Society was much more conscious about environmental awareness and government incentives were also available to promote renewable energy sources.
In recent years, continuous research and technological developments have further enhanced the efficiency and affordability of solar panels, making solar energy a very competitive and increasingly common source for renewable power around the globe.
Around 1780, Italian physicist Luigi Galvani is credited with the early work that led to the invention of modern-day batteries. He discovered that muscle contractions would occur when touched with two different types of metals. By 1801, the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter was developing galvanic cells that could be recharged, which helped another German physicist Wilhelm Josef Sinstenden to develop a prototype lead-acid battery.
Then over the next 200 years, ongoing research into Alkaline and Nickel-metal hydride batteries continued to develop the technology and make batteries more efficient. Ultimately this led to Sony developing the first commercially rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1991, which became a game-changer overnight.
Nowadays, the lithium-ion battery is considered to be the best type of battery for current-day Solar PV systems. In 2019, scientists John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Wittingham and Akira Yoshino were awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in further development of lithium-ion batteries.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the early focus was on experimenting with various materials and designs to create efficient solar batteries. These batteries were originally used during space missions, to enable energy storage from solar panels to be used during orbits in the shadow of celestial bodies.
In the late 1960s, Nickel-Cadmium batteries emerged as a promising solar battery technology. These batteries were durable and capable of withstanding extreme conditions, making them more suitable for space exploration and satellite applications.
Then by the 1970s, lead-acid batteries were being adapted for terrestrial use in solar power systems. These batteries were more affordable and found applications in off-grid homes and remote areas where solar energy could be harnessed. Over the years, advancements in battery chemistry and technology have been continuous. Improved designs, such as sealed lead-acid batteries and advancements in materials, have led to much improved energy storage capacities and greater reliability.
The recent introduction of lithium-ion battery technology has revolutionised solar energy Storage. If you’re a homeowner wondering What the pros and cons of solar batteries are? then this is probably the battery type that you’ll want to research for your home. Lithium-ion batteries became prominent due to their high energy density, lightweight nature, and good efficiency. Their use has expanded into multiple applications, revolutionising residential solar systems and electric vehicles.
Modern solar batteries are designed for easy integration with solar panels. They support the storage of excess energy generated during the day for use during the night or during times of low sunlight, contributing significantly to the overall efficiency of solar power systems.
The latest research activity focuses on further improving battery storage technology. Efforts are directed towards increasing energy density, reducing costs, enhancing durability, and making storage systems more sustainable. Solar batteries have come a long way from basic storage solutions to sophisticated energy storage systems, playing a vital role in optimising the generation of solar energy and contributing to the shift towards cleaner, sustainable power sources.