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The use of solar energy for generating power is a concept that has been around for a long time. Some early examples of this, to be dealt with in the sections that follow, include dishes and troughs that were developed in a flurry of creative activity between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. There was somewhat of a hiatus from much development in first half of the 20th century until work again resumed after the Second World War. This was driven by interest in exploring space as well as other thrusts. An excellent summary of the early history of solar applications has been given by Butti and Perlin .
Momentum to examine renewable energy generally picked up considerably with the oil embargo of the 1970s. At that time, President Jimmy Carter outlined the challenge the US particularly, and the world more generally, faced in terms of dealing with energy issues. He warned that the situation was “the moral equivalent of war” in a 1977 speech. In this same year, he was responsible for forming the US Department of Energy, which combined some existing agencies, including the US Energy Research and Development Administration. He also initiated the Solar Energy Research Institute, in Golden, Colorado, that later became the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Following that time, interest again waned as a result of falling energy prices. President Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels that were placed on the White House under President Carter. Oil again became the primary focus in energy. Various starts and stops to solar development followed, including the start of the large development of the Luz systems in the Mohave Desert area of California, which was later stopped when existing tax credits went away.