The French mathematics teacher Augustin Mouchot patented in 1861 the first machine, which could produce electricity by the exposure of the sun. Mouchot filled, with a glass layer surrounded, iron bucket with water. Those, between the iron and the glass, caught sunbeams, let the water evaporate. The developed steam propelled a small engine. Augustin Mouchot perfected its machine as he added large, dish-similar mirrors which were directed toward the iron container. The mirrors should bundle the sunlight and thus more steam produce. Besides Mouchot adjusted the mirrors, with the help of two axles, constantly to the sun, in order to increase the warmth between the glass and the iron constantly (such mirrors are used today in California.).
The energy, which Mouchot's machine produced, was however in such a manner low that further with the cheap coal electricity was won.
Franc Shuman, an American engineer, set up the first solar power station around 1912/1913 in Egypt. It established 25 kilometers south of Cairo of five reflected troughs. All troughs had a length of 60 meters and were during the day constantly aligned to the sun. Owing to this always-lasting sun exposure the water in the caustic curve of the mirrors could be heated up almost on the boiling point. With the produced steam some low pressure steam engines were propelled, which carried the Nile water to the fields. This system of Franc Shuman was a predecessor to the today's Solar fields in California. The only difference consists of the fact that into California the sun exposure is converted directly into electricity. In the 1. World war this power station at the Nile was destroyed and with the falling oil prices sank also the interest in the solar power.
With the oil crisis men had to use other forms of electricity production and many solar power station were built.
Already in the year 1839 the French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel detected that between two electrodes, which were in acid a current flowed, if one was lit.
1873 observed Willoughby Smith, a British engineer that selenium (a chemical material) changed the electrical resistance with exposure. The selenium cell resulting from it achieved only one efficiency of approx. 1%.
Only after approximately 80 years employees of Bell Telephone company laboratory discovered that silicon cells possessed a five times higher efficiency than the selenium cells. These new cells were used for the first time for a relay station of a voice grade channel. Because of the high costs this new method was not continued to apply.
Owing to space travel the silicon cell disappeared not completely from the earth. The solar cell was the easiest energy source and as in space the sun always shines also the most effective there. 1958 one shot for the first time a satellite in the All, which was equipped with solar cells.
The oil crisis helped, exactly like the solarthermal power stations, the photovoltaic to the final break-through. In the center of the eighties the world production achieved 25 megawatts and before two years produced the solar cells world-wide even 125 megawatts.