Many ancient civilizations have worshiped the sun as the cause of everything. The ancient and modern North- and South-American Indian tribes worshiped the sun. The ancient Egyptians worshiped their sun god Ra. Leonardo Da Vinci, in the late 15th century invented a water heater for industrial use by using solar power by employing concave mirrors.
Solar energy has been used by humans many centuries ago. Its history is rich and the methods for building or construction have taken into consideration the movement of the sun to optimize its warmth and light.
For industrially developed countries, solar energy has become increasingly important because the use of fossil fuels has effects on global warming and pollution. Reserves for fossil fuel are limited while renewable energy sources are not. Solar energy is now also a great source of energy for developing countries with remote isolated areas. The possibilities are immense for a stand-alone solar appliance that does not need expensive grid infrastructure.
Manufacturing costs of photovoltaic cells in the recent years has dropped by 3-5% per year, while government subsidies have increased. While to some such facts about solar energy seem trivial, this makes solar energy an ever-more affordable energy source. In 2004, the worldwide production of solar cells increased by 60%. However, production has been hampered since the material these cells are made from, silicon, has been in short supply.
The energy output of a 1 KW solar energy unit is roughly equivalent to the burning of 170 pounds of coal and 300 pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. At the end of 2005 total global peak power of installed solar panels was about 5,300 MW.
The average solar energy falling in Australia is equivalent to about 15000 times the nation’s present total energy use. It is more than 2000 times the need as of now at 15% conversion rate, providing that all of the energy will be captured all.
The Mojave Desert in North America has the world’s largest solar power plant. It covers 1000 acres of solar reflectors. An astonishing 90% of the world’s currently commercially produced solar power is produced by it.
Africa’s Sahara desert could generate more than 450 tarawatt (TW) per year. The global consumption of energy currently is 13 tarawatt, this is a combination of energy produced with fossil and other renewable resources.
Israel is now building a 100Mw solar power plant. It will supply more than 200,000 Israelis with electricity. There are further plans for an even bigger solar power plant that has an output of 500 Mw. If this will materialize, this will make Israel a solar energy leader.