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Context of '2002: Largest Solar Power Facility in Northwest Goes Online'

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1883: Inventor Describes Selenium Solar Cells

American inventor Charles Fritts describes the first solar cells made from selenium wafers. Fritts hopes that his cells might compete with the coal-fired power plants of Thomas Edison, but Fritts’s cells operate at less than one percent efficiency, far below the threshold for practical applicability. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file; American Physical Society, 2013]

Entity Tags: Charles Fritts

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Semiconductor researcher Russell Shoemaker Ohl of Bell Laboratories is poring over silicon samples, one of which has a crack in the middle. Electrical current flows through the cracked sample when exposed to light. The crack, likely formed when the sample was made, actually marks the boundary between regions containing different levels of impurities, so one side is positively “doped” and the other negatively doped. Ohl has inadvertently created a “p-n junction,” the basis of a solar cell. When an excess positive charge builds up on one side of the p-n barrier, and a similar excess charge builds up on the other, negatively charged side, an electric field is created. The cell can be hooked up into a circuit, and incoming photos striking the cell can “kick” electrons loose and start a current flowing. Ohl patents the solar cell, which operates at about one percent efficiency. [American Physical Society, 2013]

Entity Tags: Bell Laboratories, Russell Shoemaker Ohl

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Bell Laboratories scientists Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson develop the silicon photovoltaic cell, launching the US’s photovoltaic technology industry. The PV cell is the first to convert enough solar energy to run everyday electrical equipment. Chapin had been working on magnetic materials at Bell Labs, and wanted to develop a source of power for telephone systems in remote humid locations, where dry cell batteries degraded rapidly. Chapin determined that solar energy was the most promising of the alternative energy sources available, but found the existing selenium solar cells (see 1883 and 1940) far too inefficient. Fuller and Pearson were working together to control the properties of semiconductors by introducing impurities. When the two introduce gallium and lithium to a piece of silicon, they create a p-n junction, allowing electrical current to be generated. The silicon cell produces far more electricity than they had anticipated. Pearson informed Chapin to concentrate on silicon cells, and the three work together to improve the properties of the silicon cells. Eventually, the three use a silicon cell with boron and arsenic impurities to create a satisfactory solar cell, and link several together to form what they call a “solar battery.” Their battery produces energy at about a six percent efficiency rating. Bell publicly demonstrates the new battery by using it to power a toy Ferris wheel and a radio transmitter. The New York Times writes that the silicon solar cell “may mark 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.” Bell Labs later produces a PV cell that achieves 11% efficiency. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file; American Physical Society, 2013]

Entity Tags: Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, Bell Laboratories

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

1955: Western Electric Sells PV Licenses

Western Electric begins selling commercial licenses for silicon photovoltaic (PV) technologies (see 1954). Some successful products include PV-powered dollar bill changers and devices that decode computer punch cards and tape. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Western Electric

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

US Signal Corps Laboratories scientist William Cherry discusses developing photovoltaic (PV) cells (see 1954) for proposed orbiting Earth satellites with RCA Labs’ Paul Rappaport and Joseph Loferski. Two years later, the Signal Corps Laboratories successfully fabricates a new silicon PV cell more resistant to radiation and thusly more useful for space-based energy generation. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joseph Loferski, Paul Rappaport, US Signal Corps Laboratories, William Cherry

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

The US’s Vanguard I space satellite uses a small solar array, generating less than one watt, to power its radios. Later that same year, the Explorer III, Vanguard II, and Sputnik-3 satellites all use PV-powered systems (see 1956-1958) to power its systems. While commercial uses for solar energy in the United States (see 1955) is less than successful during this period, silicon solar cells become a mainstay of satellites and subsequent space exploration vehicles. In 1962, Bell Telephone Laboratories launches the first telecommunications satellite, Telstar. This satellite generates 14 watts of electricity via its PV cells. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file; Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2013]

Entity Tags: Bell Laboratories

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

The first large commercial production of selenium and silicon PV cells (see 1955) begins at Silicon Sensors, Inc. of Dodgeville, Wisconsin. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Silicon Sensors, Inc.

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Dr. Peter Glaser invents and patents the first design of a satellite solar power station (SPS). Microwave power transmission pioneer William C. Brown begins working with Glaser. The SPS launches an entirely new aspect of the solar industry. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file; Space Solar Power Institute, 2013; Solar Power World, 5/2013]

Entity Tags: William C. Brown, Peter Glaser

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

France installs a cadmium sulfide (CdS) photovoltaic system to operate an educational television station at a village school in Niger. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Hisperia, California launches the first PV megawatt-scale power station in existence. The station, developed by ARCO Solar, produces 1 megawatt of energy. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: ARCO Solar

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

A new six-megawatt solar electricity substation in central California, operated by ARCO Solar, generates enough power for Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to power up to 2,500 homes. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: ARCO Solar, Pacific Gas and Electric

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

The world’s largest solar-thermal facility opens in Kramer Junction, California. The solar field uses rows of mirrors that concentrate solar energy onto a system of pipes circulating a heat transfer fluid. That fluid produces steam, which in turn powers a conventional turbine to produce electricity. The Kramer Junction facility is the largest of nine such plants built in the 1980s. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

1996: US DOE Launches ‘Solar Two’ Facility

The US Department of Energy, in conjuction with a consortium of industry representatives, launches its “Solar Two,” an upgrade of its Solar One solar power project in Daggett, California (see 1982). The facility is in operation through 1999. It demonstrates how solar energy can be stored efficiently and economically to be used during times when the sun is not shining. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Astronauts begin installing solar panels on the International Space Station, to form what will be the largest solar power array deployed in space. Each “wing” of the array consists of 32,800 solar cells. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Space Station

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

The world’s largest hybrid power generating system comes online in Hawaii, combining wind and solar power production. The plant, built by PowerLight Corporation, generates more electricity from the sun than it does from wind. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: PowerLight Corporation

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Richland, Washington, brings the largest solar power facility in the Northwest, the White Bluffs Solar Station, online. The facility generates almost 39 kilowatts of electricity. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: White Bluffs Solar Station

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

David White, who chairs the Energy Practice Group at Oregon’s Tonkon Corporation, writes in the Portland, Oregon, Daily Journal of Commerce about a pilot program going into effect that affects Oregon solar energy users. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) is starting a program that White says “offers a promising alternative to more traditional financing of solar projects.” Traditionally, solar projects in Oregon have been financed with a combination of state business energy tax credits (BETCs), incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO), federal tax credits, and credits from the utility based on the energy produced by the solar facility but not used by the customer. The BETCs are set to expire in 2012, thusly the new program offers new incentives for solar energy producers. White writes: “Under the pilot program, solar owners will be able to sell the energy they produce back to the utility at rates more than five times retail electricity rates. They also will be eligible for federal tax credits, but not BETCs or ETO incentives. The program is geared primarily to small (less than 10 kilowatt) and medium-sized (10 kilowatt to 100 kilowatt) solar producers, but systems of up to 500 kilowatts will qualify. That’s pretty big when you think of two acres covered with solar panels.” Net metering will be an option for systems generating 100 kilowatts or less, essentially allowing those producers to receive monthly credits equal to the electricity they generate. Solar producers can even sell excess energy to the utility at market rates. White acknowledges that the reception to the program has been mixed. Supporters say similar programs in Germany made that country the world’s largest solar energy producer; critics say the program has limited capacity and relies on an uncertain bidding process. White says the program “provides financial incentive options for solar owners in the short-term and for Oregon’s solar industry in the long-term.… The pilot program reflects a new public policy perspective. Rather than having solar development hinge on the inherently unstable BETC approach, which is funded by the general public, this pilot program is paid for by utility customers through higher retail rates. Businesses and homeowners should sharpen their pencils and compare the options based on their individual needs.” [Portland Daily Journal of Commerce, 6/16/2010]

Entity Tags: Oregon Public Utility Commission, David White, Energy Trust of Oregon

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

In a press release, Kyocera Solar announces the opening of the Arlington Valley Solar Energy II (AV Solar II) installation in Maricopa County, Arizona, near the Hassayampa Substation. Kyocera, one of the world’s largest producers of solar photovoltaic (PV—see 1954) modules and systems, operates the facility in conjunction with LS Power and the state of Arizona; Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) is on hand to officially open the facility. Block 1 is online; Blocks 2 through 5 are expected to be complete by the end of the year. Kyocera Solar vice president Steve Hill says: “Today’s opening of the AV Solar II mega-installation marks a major milestone in Kyocera’s four decades of manufacturing high-quality, long-lasting solar modules. We’re proud to provide US-made products to this utility-scale installation, which adds to the mega-installations around the world showcasing Kyocera’s unrivaled solar solutions including a 204MW project in Thailand and a 70MW installation in Kagoshima, Japan.” When complete, the facility will be one of the largest solar PV installations in North America and will provide 127 megawatts of power for the surrounding community. Brewer tells the press: “Thanks to our strategic location, pro-business climate, skilled workforce, and strong incentives for solar development, Arizona is a national leader in the solar industry. As an Arizona-based company, Kyocera Solar understands how critical this industry is to a secure economic and renewable energy future.” [Business Wire, 5/1/2013]

Entity Tags: Steve Hill, Arlington Valley Solar Energy II, Jan Brewer, Kyocera Solar, LS Power

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

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