Industries, Nations and Time
Chapter 3: “Power from sunshine”: The business of solar energy before 1990
This chapter explores the emergence and growth of the solar energy business world from the nineteenth century to 1990. It covers early strategies to create parabolic dish collectors, passive use of solar by architects and the creation of the photovoltaic industry after World War II. It shows that many of the leading entrepreneurs in solar were motivated by broad social and environmental agendas to bring electricity to communities that had no access to it, and to provide careful stewardship over the world’s resources. A perennial problem was that solar technologies were not developed sufficiently to compete with conventional fuels, especially as the latter were not priced to incorporate wider environmental costs. Public policy interest in solar increased and the business prospects of solar rose whenever the prices of fossil fuels increased, only to decline when those prices subsequently fell.
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