Throughout man’s history the sun has always been a subject of speculation and worship. In fact, most ancient cultures have deified the sun, due to its life-giving and energy-giving qualities.
Thus, the subject of solar energy is one of the oldest subjects on earth. It has gone through many evolutions and has been the subject of many schools of thought – starting with religion, and ending up in the field of science.
In fact, though not many people know this, a large portion of the western civilization celebrates the returning of the sun each year, just as the ancients did thousands of years ago.
I am referring, of course, to Christmas – which dates back to the celebrating of the winter solstice, the point in time when the earth has reached its furthest point away from the sun, and starts returning.
Of course, the story of Christmas has radically changed from its original meaning. It has gone through its own evolution. Originally being a celebration of the sun’s return, it then became the celebration of the birth of Christ, and eventually wound up with a friendly old man bringing Coca Cola on Christmas Eve. But this last point is simply modern marketing at work.
The First Uses of Solar Energy
It is almost impossible to exactly date the first uses of solar energy.
But we do know that the ancient Greeks and Romans civilizations, among others, made use of “passive solar energy” in their building designs.
Passive solar energy is the use of architecture in order to capture the sun’s heat and light, for use in buildings.
Socrates and the Romans
Even the famous Greek philosopher Socrates has commented on the benefits of facing one’s house toward the south, in order to make use of the heat provided by the sun in the winter.
The Romans also used this technique of positioning their houses facing southward, but they took it a step further, by installing more windows on the south side, allowing heat and light from the sun to freely enter the buildings.
With the above methods they managed to reduce the amount of fuel they needed to heat their homes. And considering that you had to go out and chop your own wood in those days, it was well worth it.
For more information see Solar Energy History Part II.