1839: Nineteen-year-old Edmund Becquerel, a French experimental physicist, discovered the photovoltaic effect
while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes. 1873: Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductivity
1876:Adams and Day observed the photovoltaic effect in solid selenium.
Fritts, an American inventor, described the first solar cells made from selenium wafers.
1887:Heinrich Hertz discovered
that ultraviolet light altered the lowest voltage capable of causing a spark to jump between two metal electrodes.
discovered that a combination of copper and cuprous oxide was photosensitive. Einstein published his paper on the photoelectric
The existence of a barrier layer in PV devices was reported.
experimental proof of the photoelectric effect.
Polish scientist Czochralski developed a way to grow single-crystal
received the Nobel Prize for his theories explaining the photoelectric effect.
A grown p-n junction enabled
the production of a single-crystal cell of germanium.
The PV effect in Cd was reported; primary work was performed
by Rappaport, Loferski and Jenny at RCA. Bell Labs researchers Pearson, Chapin, and Fuller reported their discovery of 4.5%
efficient silicon solar cells; this was raised to 6% only a few months later (by a work team including Mort Prince). Chapin,
Fuller, Pearson (AT&T) submitted their results to the Journal of Applied Physics. AT&T demonstrated solar cells in
Murray Hill, New Jersey, then at the National Academy of Science Meeting in Washington, DC.
began to sell commercial licenses for silicon PV technologies; early successful products included PV-powered dollar bill changers
and devices that decoded computer punch cards and tape. Bell System's demonstration of the type P rural carrier system began
in Americus, Georgia. Hoffman Electronics's Semiconductor Division announced a commercial PV product at 2% efficiency; priced
at $25/cell and at 14 mW each, the cost of energy was $1500/W.
Bell System's demonstration of the type P rural
carrier system was terminated after five months.
Hoffman Electronics achieved 8% efficient cells. "Solar
Energy Converting Apparatus," patent #2,780,765, was issued to Chapin, Fuller, and Pearson, AT&T.
Electronics achieved 9% efficient PV cells. Vanguard I, the first PV-powered satellite, was launched in cooperation with the
U.S. Signal Corp. The satellite power system operated for 8 years.
Hoffman Electronics achieved 10% efficient,
commercially available PV cells and demonstrated the use of a grid contact to significantly reduce series resistance. Explorer-6
was launched with a PV array of 9600 cells, each only 1 cm x 2 cm.
Hoffman Electronics achieved 14% efficient
1961:The UN conference on Solar Energy in the Developing World was held. The precursor to the
PV Specialists Conference, the Meeting of the Solar Working Group (SWG) of the Interservice Group for Flight Vehicle Power,
was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The first PV Specialists Conference was held in Washington, DC.
installed a 242-W PV array on a lighthouse, the world's largest array at that time.
1964:The Nimbus spacecraft was
launched with a 470-W PV array.
1965:Peter Glaser, A.D. Little, conceived the idea of a satellite solar power station.
Tyco Labs developed the edge-defined, film-fed growth (EFG) process, first to grow crystal sapphire ribbons and then silicon.
1966:The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory was launched with a 1-kW PV array.
satellite was launched with two CdS panels.
1972:The French install a CdS PV system in a village school in Niger
to run an educational TV.
1973:The Cherry Hill Conference was held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
formulated Project Sunshine. Tyco Labs grew the first EFG, 1-inch-wide ribbon by an endless-belt process.
U.S. government began a terrestrial PV research and development project, assigned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
as a result of recommendations of the Cherry Hill Conference. Bill Yerkes opened Solar Technology International. Exxon opened
Solar Power Corporation. JPL instituted the Block I procurement by the U.S. government.
Energy Research Institute (SERI), later to become the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), opened in Golden, Colorado.
Total PV manufacturing production exceeded 500 kW.
1979:Solenergy was founded. NASA's Lewis Research Center (LeRC)
completed a 3.5-kW system on the Papago Indian Reservation in Schuchuli, Arizona; this was the world's first village PV system.
NASA's LeRC completed an 1.8-kW array for AID, in Tangaye, Upper Volta, and later increased power output to 3.6 kW.
first William R. Cherry Award was given to Paul Rappaport, SERI's founding director. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces,
was selected to establish and operate the Southwest Residential Experimental Station (SW RES). A 105.6-kW system was dedicated
at Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah; the system used Motorola, ARCO Solar, and Spectrolab PV modules.
90.4-kW PV system was dedicated at Lovington Square Shopping Center (New Mexico) using Solar Power Corp. modules. A 97.6-kW
PV system was dedicated at Beverly High School in Beverly, Massachusetts, using Solar Power Corp. modules. An 8-kW PV-powered
(Mobil Solar), reverse-osmosis desalination facility was dedicated in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
1982:Worldwide PV production
exceeded 9.3 MW. Solarex dedicated its 'PV Breeder' production facility in Frederick, Maryland, with its roof-integrated 200-kW
array. ARCO Solar's Hisperia, California, 1-MW PV plant went on line with modules on 108 dual-axis trackers.
JPL Block V procurement was begun. Solar Power Corporation completed the design and installation of four stand-alone PV village
power systems in Hammam Biadha, Tunesia (a 29-kW village power system, a 1.5-kW residential system, and two 1.5-kW irrigation/pumping
systems). Solar Design Associates completed the stand-alone, 4-kW (Mobil Solar), Hudson River Valley home. Worldwide PV production
exceeded 21.3 MW, and sales exceeded $250 million.
1984:The IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award was presented to Drs. David
Carlson and Christopher Wronski at the 17th Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, "for crucial contributions to the use
of amorphous silicon in low-cost, high-performance photovoltaic solar cells."
1991:The Solar Energy Research
Institute was redesignated as the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory by President George Bush.
1993:The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Solar Energy Research Facility (SERF), opened in Golden, Colorado.
1996:The U.S. Department of Energy announces the National Center for Photovoltaics, headquartered in Golden, Colorado.