The development of solar energy goes back more than 100 years. In the early days, solar energy was used primarily for the production of steam which could then be used to drive machinery. But it wasn't until the discovery of the "photovoltaic effect" by Edmond Becquerel that would allow the conversion of sunlight solar electric energy.

Becquerel's discovery then led to the invention in 1893 by Charles Fritts of the first genuine solar cell which was formed by coating sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold. And from this humble beginning would arise the device we know today as the solar panel.

Russel Ohl, an American inventor on the payroll of Bell Laboratories, patented the world's first silicon solar cell in 1941. Ohl's invention led to the production of the first solar panel in 1954 by the same company. Solar panels found their first mainstream use in space satellites. For most people, the first solar panel in their life was probably embedded in their new calculator - circa the 1970s!

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