From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity

From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity

By Notes on John Perlin, Author & keynote speaker at IREA Energy Fair this weekend!

If there is a dream solar technology, it is photovoltaics, the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity by solar cells—a space-age electronic wonder at the same time the most sophisticated solar technology and the simplest, most environmentally safe source of electricity yet conceived. Log on to the Internet, call long distance, turn on your cellular or pager, watch TV shows, get the latest weather report, and you’ve most likely relied on photovoltaics.

That’s because solar cells power every telecommunication satellite and a good deal of land based telecommunication networks that make the information highway possible. Solar cells have also brought abundant clean water, electric lighting, and telephone service to those who had gone without. They ensure the safe passage of ships and trains, powering navigation and railroad warning devices. In fact, the use of solar cells already benefits hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, resulting in a 200-fold growth rate for the photovoltaics industry over the last 20 years.

The phenomenal success has led many to envision photovoltaics becoming a major non-carbon dioxide energy source. The silent photovoltaic revolution remains a secret no longer, thanks to John Perlin’s book, From space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity. From Space to Earth tells the step-by-step development of this solar success story. The great philosopher Aristotle best articulates the value of covering the milestones of solar cells and their application in such a historical fashion, stating, “The essentials of a phenomenon are best understood if one tries to explore their rise from the very beginnings.”

From Space to Earth is not merely the story of a technology. It is equally the story of people who innovated, persevered, bucked authority and risked it all to turn a mere scientific curiosity into today’s booming photovoltaic business. Among the visionary mavericks featured in the book include a U.S. Army scientist who takes on the entire Navy to see that solar cells become the power supply for space; a lieutenant commander willing to jeopardize his Coast Guard career to solarize America’s buoys and lighthouses; and a priest in the Sahara, preaching the solar gospel to save his flock from drought.

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