Concentrated solar power systems, for example, which use mirrors or lenses to concentrate large amounts of solar heat to drive power generators, are widely commercialized and growing rapidly. But an early design for the technology was developed more than 500 years ago by Leonardo Da Vinci. Years later, in 1913, concentrated solar technology was used by Frank Shuman to power an entire solar thermal energy station in Egypt.
Solar water heating systems, one of the most effective and efficient uses of solar energy, were installed on rooftops in Baltimore, Maryland more than 120 years ago. Clarence Kemp patented a solar water heater in 1891 called the "Climax." The solar thermal system was marketed as a way to simplify housekeeping duties without fire, without cost and without inconvenience. Modern passive solar water heaters follow Kemp's basic design, appealing to homeowners for the same reasons now as they did in the 19th century.
Research into photovoltaic technology, the conversion of solar radiation into electricity, began in 1839 with a discovery by French physicist Alexandre Becquerel. Albert Einstein was one of several scientists to continue early research into photovoltaics and in 1922, he won a Nobel Prize for his published studies on the photoelectric effect. To learn more, take a look at our infographic profiling a these solar research pioneers.