History Of Solar Energy | Solar Thermal History

The sun has made energy for billions of years.  Solar energy is that the sun’s rays (solar radiation) that reach the world. Solar power technology isn’t new. Solar energy history spans from early mankind’s to nowadays. Solar energy is employed everywhere in the planet in several aspects. Solar Energy is a renewable source because it isn’t made of fossil fuels and it’s made naturally. Additionally we will never run out of solar energy because the sun is often there. Today, we’ve everything from solar-powered homes to solar charged automotives.

In fifteenth century B.C. Egyptian ruler Amenkotep III had “sounding statues” that emitted a tone once air inside was heated by the radiated sun rays.

01-Egyptian ruler Amenkotep III  sounding statues

In the early seventh Century B.C. magnifying glasses are accustomed to concentrate sun’s rays to create fire which are used for lot of reasons. These light rays are accustomed to burn ants. Early days the people stored the wheat’s for long days which are attacked by ants. So that they killed the insects by light rays.

01-magnifying glasses to burn ants

Around third Century B.C. Greeks and Romans use burning mirrors (burning mirror fabricated by joining triangular metal mirrors) to light torches for spiritual purposes.

In Second Century B.C., (212 B.C) the Greek scientist, Archimedes, used the reflective properties of bronze shields (large number of angled hexagonal mirrors) to focus sunlight and to set fire to wooden ships of roman empires. (Although no proof of such a effort / feat exists) (The Greek navy re-created this experiment in 1973 and successfully set fire to a wooden boat at a distance of 50 meters.)

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01-archimedes hexagonal mirrors

In twentieth century A.D. Chinese uses the burning mirrors (Bronze Concave Mirrors) to light torches for spiritual purposes and for cooking.

01-chinese burning mirrors

From first to fourth Century A.D. The famous Roman bathhouses had massive south facing windows to let in the sun’s rays to warmth the swimming pools. The sketch books of Leonardo da Vinci architect shows that the great Italian hoped to comprehend his solar ambitions by the use of burning mirrors. He planned to make one solar concentring mirrors with a radius of half a mile to heat the water for swimming pools.


Around 1200s A.D. Ancestors of Pueblo people called as Anasazi in North America (Pre Columbian natives) (who are the hunters begin to do agricultures stayed in one place for several years) board in south-facing cliff dwellings to capture the winter sun. They built 18 to 24 inches thick walls fabricated from cement, sand and water, which absorbs the winter sun’s heat energy and the stored radiant energy which keeps the heat balance during nights. These are the earliest passive solar designs.

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01-south facing cliff dwellings of Ancestors of Pueblo people called as Anasazi

In 1767 Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure was attributed with building the world’s first solar collector hot boxes fabricated from wood with glass covers which trapped the sun rays energy (Heat produced nearly 320 deg F), later the concept is used by Sir John Herschel to cook food (reached a temperature of 240 deg F) during his South Africa expedition around 1830s. Saussure also invented the helio-thermometer (1767), an instrument for measuring solar radiation. This instrument was a basic to modern solar radiation measurement devices.

01-Saussure solar collector hot box

In 1816 Robert Stirling of Scotland who sought to create a safer alternative system to the steam engines. Before that steam engine boilers are exploded due to the high pressure of steam. So he developed an Economizer for the engine to prevent from high pressure. He applied a patent for his Refrigerator or Economizer. This engine was later used in the solar dish / Stirling system, which is connected to grid system that concentrates the sun’s thermal energy to a single focus points so as to supply / produce power.

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01-solar dish stirling engine - stirling cycle - stirling engine

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