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In 1839, French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect at the young age of 19. He realized when electrons were in an excited state in a conduction band, they could move freely through a material, thus creating a current.
The first solar panel was invented by Charles Fritts in 1883 where he coated a thin layer of selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold. The resulting cells had a conversion electrical efficiency of only about 1%. This invention led to the launching of a movement for producing solar energy.
But this wasn’t widely recognized until Einstein wrote a paper about the power of solar for which he eventually received the Nobel prize in 1922.
The global solar energy installed capacity is estimated to be around 728GW and is estimated to grow up to 1,645 GW in 2026. Solar energy has exhibited the most rapid cost decline among energy technologies.