Wilson's desalination plant
Everybody can imagine how difficult it is to obtain water in the desert today. Now imagine the difficulties experienced by the mining towns in the Atacama Desert (Chile) in the nineteenth century.
An ingenious solution to these problems was found by Charles Wilson in 1872 in another of the great milestones in the history of solar energy.
Wilson was tasked with the design and construction of a system that extracted salt water from a 40-metre-deep well, operated using a windmill. From there, water was driven towards a reservoir, where it was collected and stored in drawers with a black painted background and a glass lid.
When these boxes were left in the sun, solar energy facilitated the evaporation of water, which was stored in a drinking water container. The wind in the Atacama Desert also favoured condensation, as it is cold and constant.
The chronicles of the time assert that in the summer months, it managed to distil around 18,000 litres of water per day.
Becquerel's photovoltaic cell
French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel is considered to have discovered the photovoltaic effect, which involves capturing sunlight and converting it into energy. In 1838, at just 19 years of age, a young Becquerel, the son and father of notable scientists, also felt science calling.
When Becquerel was studying Faraday's laws of electrolysis using an electrolytic battery with platinum electrodes, he realised that the electric current produced by the battery was triggered in one of the electrodes when it came into contact with sunlight.
Just one year later, he published his study "on electric effects under the influence of solar radiation", opening the door to new ways of harnessing solar energy and improving efficiency. This represented a major step forward in the history of solar energy when it comes to promoting electricity generation.
Fritts' solar panel
Fritts' studies on solar panels, published in 1833, marked the birth of photovoltaic energy and the use of sunlight to generate electricity without the need to use fossil fuels.
Just 50 years after the discovery of the Becquerel photovoltaic cell, American inventor Charles Fritts created the first photovoltaic cell in history. His research, published in the article "On a New Form of Selenium Photocell", informed the world of the first way to transform solar energy into electricity.
Fritts used a glass box with a sheet of selenium placed between two sheets, one made of gold and one made of brass. The light received caused the electrons to move through the selenium and the electric current came out of a wire that Fritts had included at one end of the box.
Despite this major achievement in the history of solar energy and the promising advance represented by Fritts' solar panel, the high cost of the materials and the low use of sunlight (1%) meant that other energies took the lead when it came to generating electricity.
However, scientific and technological progress has made the production of efficient solar panels must more efficient, based on the same principles as Fritts' solar panel.
Each and every one of these inventions in the history of solar energy has made it possible for us to move towards a more sustainable world and towards the production of electricity using renewable sources.
Now, progressively more people choose to install solar panels in their homes to save on their electricity bills and form part of the world of self-consumption. Tariffs like Tempo Solar self-consumption help you to reduce your electricity bill with a very economical price for the times of the day when your solar panels are unable to provide you with the energy you need.
For people who cannot install photovoltaic panels, it is still possible to consume electricity in a much greener way, thanks to green electricity tariffs, as part of which you only consume sustainable energy generated by renewable sources like solar energy or wind energy.