“Who created solar energy?” This is a question that is frequently asked when people see images of the sun shining brightly on solar panels. The answer is a bit complicated, but it all starts with a man named George Demetrios.
Demetrios was born in Greece in 1896 and moved to the United States at a young age where he attended MIT. After graduating, he went on to work for various energy companies, eventually becoming the head of research and development for one of them. During World War II, Demetrios worked for the Navy where he helped develop sonar technology which was at the time quite novel. He also worked for Phillips Petroleum and eventually started his own company which he called Solar Energy Industries.
Solar Energy Industries began in 1942 and specialized in developing solar energy systems. The company grew quickly and by 1975, it employed more than 400 people. At the time, the biggest issue for alternative energy was how to store the energy produced by the panels. In the 1970s, a lot of research went into developing new storage technologies, including large-scale batteries, but it was still a challenge to store enough energy to make it practical.
The Man Behind All of This
It was in the early 1970s when solar energy really came of age. The energy crisis in the 70s and newfound environmental awareness created an opportunity for alternative energy which attracted many talented people to the field.
Today, we take for granted that solar energy is a viable source of power, but back then it was a huge step forward for the industry.
Demetrios was responsible for some of the major breakthroughs which made solar power a reality. One of the first big steps was the development of the photovoltaic cell, which is basically the building block of a solar panel. As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The photovoltaic cell allowed for the production of electricity without requiring any fossil fuels which was revolutionary at the time.
Other people and organizations which contributed to the success of solar energy in the 1970s include ARCO, BP, Chevron, Standard Oil, DuPont, and many more.
Solar energy has come a long way since then. In 2015, the U.S. generated nearly 22.5 million megawatt-hours of solar power. That’s enough to power around 7.5 million homes for a day. Not too shabby!