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Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth – 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. Enough irradiation in 1 hour to provide all of the world’s energy use.
The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On page one of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”
The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. In the 1960s the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecrafts. The Vanguard 1 — the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells — remains the oldest man made satellite in orbit – logging more than 6 billion miles.
The first commercial solar water heater was patented in 1891 It is said that at least 30 million Chinese households now have one.
Germany is the world’s top photovoltaics installer, with a solar PV capacity as of December 2012 of more than 32.3 gigawatts. Germany does not get that much sunshine yet they are number 1 in the world.