There are several different types of energy technologies that try to harness the sun’s power, photovoltaic solar power, often referred to as PV, uses sunlight to produce energy. PV power uses cells made mostly of silicon that absorb the sun’s light photons and converts them into electrons that we can use for electricity. PV cells contain no moving parts and therefore are silent, a most attractive attribute.
The history of PV power really got its start in 1954, when Bell Laboratories created a solar cell. Although solar PV has been around for a little more than half a century, it has had its fair share of setbacks, especially the high cost of cell production. Remarkably the price to make PV cells has gone down dramatically over the years. At its start a cell could cost $1,500/watt, but in 2006 it went down to a mere $6/watt. Unfortunately, for the United States this is still a relatively high cost for energy, while for other countries it’s comparatively the same. This is exactly why PV solar power has grown at a dramatic rate abroad, and why its struggling to make a breakthrough here in the United States.
This and much more information, can be found in:
Kelley, Ingrid. Energy in America: A Tour of Our Fossil Fuel Culture and beyond. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, 2008.