Throughout human being’s long history, both the recorded and prehistoric periods, the warmth of the sun has been put to use. Early homes were situated in locations that received a great deal of heat and light and later on methods for distillation of water and cooking of food using only the sun’s rays were developed as well. Today, the sun is being regarded as a fundamentally untapped natural resource, but millions of people have begun to explore the remarkable benefits of solar power.
What exactly is solar power? In the simplest of terms, there is energy contained within the intense radiation that comes from the sun. Using a number of materials and systems, scientists, engineers and technicians have created ways in which home and business owners can reduce their supplied energy use through reliance on solar power.
Today solar power is used in many large and small scale applications for everything from heating and cooling of homes and buildings, creating domestic hot water, treating water and sewage, cooking, mass electrical production and even in modes of transportation such as cars and airplanes.
Actual development of the solar cells required to harness the sun’s energy in any way began in the 1800s when a French physicist observed that there were "photoelectric" effects from the sun. Only one hundred years later photovoltaic effects were being improved, and actually the most commonly used material – cadmium selenide – was being used affectively.
Things really took off from the 1950s onward as silicon and other materials were being put to use for residential and commercial solar applications. It was at this time as well that the gas crisis of the 1970s caused many people to address energy issues beyond the use of oil and petroleum products. At that time many people turned their attention to solar, water and wind as untapped sources of renewable energy.
Today scientists and physicists, among many others, are continuing to expand the applications of solar energy. It is now not uncommon to see an entire roof paneled with photovoltaic cells, or enormous power plants constructed entirely of solar collectors and a single tower for directing the energy into a steam chamber or some other method of converting the light and heat into usable energy.
With all of this research and discovery it has also become much easier to acquire the materials and equipment necessary for outfitting a home or other building with at least one source of solar energy, such as a hot water system. This all means that the days of total natural energy are getting closer and more affordable for almost any budget.