Indiana Institute of Technology
Fort Wayne, IN
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explain the history of solar energy as well as the difficulties faced in acquiring government support and investments for infrastructure and technological gains. The history of solar energy is broken into five distinct categories: Earth energy, the ancient solar age, the modern solar age, solar in the 1950s, solar today, and agriculture. Earth energy focuses on the understanding of the relationships between matter, energy, and life on Earth. The ancient solar age describes the technologies that were discovered up until about 200 years ago. The modern solar age gives birth to the advancements in solar technology that led to photovoltaics. Solar in the 1950s focuses on the battle between the advancement of nuclear energy and solar energy. In solar today, the more recent conflicts between nuclear fusion technologies and the most advance photovoltaics are examined. Lastly we dip into the agricultural uses of solar energy and how they have been perfected from there subtle begging in the ancient solar age.
Key Words: Solar Energy, Nuclear Energy, Photovoltaic, Biomass, radiation, natural process, solar architecture, city planning, United Nations General Assembly, Atoms for Peace
Renewable energy granted by the sun has been prevalently abundant since the creation of the Earth billions of years ago. For many millennia, all life on our planet has harnessed this vast and infinite source of energy. Solar energy has been the sole source of all energy from the beginning of time, but in the last two centuries we have found a way to convert this energy to our own need in a much more practical way for an industrialized civilization. Many fossilized forms such as coal, oil, and natural gas revolutionized America and all of these would not be vastly available without the energy provided by our Sun.
Many years have passed since the time where solar energy was only used for heating, fuels, and food. Most recently solar energy has been harnessed to create electricity in many ways and it will become a large part of our everyday lives in the near future. Although the men of ancient times may have been unaware of how their actions would affect the 21st century, the milestones they surpassed when actively using forms of solar energy have revolutionized human civilization immeasurably.
Through discovery of fire and the implication of burning biomass, the discovery of agriculture which caused colonization of humans, and the discovery of solar architecture and urban planning which perfected the use of the Suns radiation we as a civilization have harnessed the power of the sun. These techniques have been perfected and amplified to suit the needs of large populations throughout the world. Windowpane glass, something we take for granted today, was invented by the Romans in the first century A.D. and brought sunlight into homes and building while still keeping the elements of nature outside. Without this revolution in technology, modern life would not have been possible. All these discoveries are a part of what we like to call the ancient solar age.
The modern age of solar technology is still being sewn with the seeds of thousands of years of scientific and technological discoveries. The modern age of solar power is among us, and with ever increasing efficiencies in photovoltaic solar arrays, solar electricity is well on its way to providing a substantial renewable energy source.
II. EARTH ENERGY
Understanding how energy works on Earth is very important to understanding how solar energy affects all life on this planet. The Earth is simply made of three subsystems: matter, energy, and life. As we all know from a very fundamental concept of physics, matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This means Earth has about the same mass that it had when it was created; this is known...