Generation of electricity using sunlight and water is known as solar energy. The history of solar energy dates back to the early 20th century, when it was used in Germany and Switzerland for lighting and small electrical appliances. In the following decades, the technology came into its own with the introduction of photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity simply by being exposed to sunlight.
The modern use of solar energy however can be traced back to the year 1776, when Benjamin Franklin discovered that sunlight could be used to power a mechanical device. In 1935, Indian engineer Bhaskar Dholakia helped to launch the Indian solar energy program, which aimed to provide electricity to remote tribal villages that lacked access to conventional energy sources. In the following decades, China, India, and a few other countries would launch large-scale solar energy projects, which led to an increase in the use of solar energy worldwide. Unfortunately, the growth of solar energy would be hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a 90% drop in the demand for solar panels and other components used in the industry. Now, as governments and businesses begin to explore reopening their offices and factories, the demand for solar energy is expected to increase.
The Rise Of The Solar Decathlon
To combat climate change and offer more energy-efficient alternatives to consumers, the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016 established a taskforce for solar energy, which led to the creation of the Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon is a multi-country competition that challenges student teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered homes. The buildings are judged on a variety of metrics, including energy consumption, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.
The idea behind the competition is to inspire and educate future generations about the many advantages of solar energy. The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2017 in partnership with the United Nations, and since then, 14 countries and over 500 teams from around the world have participated. According to a UN report, the number of countries participating in the Solar Decathlon doubled in the past year and is expected to rise to 21 countries by the end of this year. While many participants come from developed countries like Germany and the United States, participation from developing countries like India and China is also increasing. The UN expects the Solar Decathlon to become an annual international event held in partnership with the United Nations.
The Future Of Solar Energy
With the reopening of factories and businesses across the world, there is a renewed optimism in the industry. In 2021, over 50 new solar projects are in the works worldwide, and most notably, the United States House of Representatives passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Act, which has the potential to provide tens of thousands of jobs in the US. This is expected to catalyze the growth of the solar energy industry, which will see a 21% rise in demand between now and the end of the decade.
Looking forward, the biggest challenge for the solar energy industry is sustainability. As the population of the world grows and consumers become more environmentally conscious, the demand for eco-friendly and sustainable energy sources grows as well. With climate change topping the list of many people’s concerns, the future of solar energy looks very promising.