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From the Olden Days to Modern Times: How Solar Lights Emerged and Developed


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The importance of proper lighting in people’s lives cannot be overstated. Adequate illumination is crucial for people to complete their tasks, avoid getting into accidents, or simply appreciate their surroundings. That’s why purchasing lighting fixtures has become a necessity for every individual. These items help brighten up a specific area when no other light source is available.

Lighting technology has grown and developed quite a lot over the years. Today, you can purchase lighting products in unique shapes or different colors. They are typically installed in living rooms or bedrooms to make the area look more fun or bohemian. There are also fixtures that can be controlled through a remote or smartphone. With just a few clicks or taps, you can switch lights on and off or even adjust their brightness.

Some of the lighting fixtures that never get old are the energy-efficient ones. Solar lights are a good example. In the morning, they harness energy from the sun; when you switch them on at night, you no longer have to plug them into a power outlet. They have been around for quite a while, but they never became obsolete because of how useful and efficient they are. Discover how they emerged, evolved, and developed over the years.

Earlier Applications

People have been using the sun as their primary source of light since ancient times. They make houses with large windows to get as much sunlight as possible. At night, those windows will let the moon’s glow illuminate the interior of the house, as well.

300 BCE

As early communities developed, people became more creative. They started using various tools, like glasses and mirrors, which were invented thousands of years before the common era. However, it was only in 300 BCE that people started using these items to create light.

At that time, the Romans would use mirrors to refocus the sun’s light and set torches, candles, and lamps afire. This method, aptly called “the burning mirror,” was popularly done when religious events were held to honor their gods and goddesses.

The burning mirror procedure was not unique to the Romans, though. The Chinese used the same method in 20 CE.

500 CE

Technology evolved, and people could construct huge buildings for churches and public establishments, as well as the homes of nobles. The interior of those edifices would get pretty dark, so candles and torches were needed to illuminate the whole space, especially at night. However, there were special chambers that were brighter than others because they received a lot of sunlight. Those were the sunrooms.

Sunrooms were also called “solar rooms” or “sollars.” They were private chambers in the manors of wealthy people, and they were typically located upstairs or on the highest floor of the building. Those rooms were quite cozy thanks to the large amount of sunlight they received, particularly in the morning. It could be quite refreshing to stay in there because of the ventilation. Sunrooms usually featured high ceilings that let the air circulate properly.

1500s to 1600s

Scientists during these years found a way to power up ovens, steamboats, and other equipment using only the sun’s energy. This was probably the earliest use of solar technology that paved the way for the invention of today’s photovoltaic cells. With this discovery, it became possible for explorers to travel longer distances. They were also able to use the technology to cook food and perform other tasks that required a decent amount of heat and energy.

The Development of Solar Cells

Technology continued to evolve. Soon solar cells were invented, and harnessing energy from the sun had never been more efficient.


It was in 1873 when English engineer Willoughby Smith found out that selenium had photoconductive properties, which refers to the innate ability of any material to absorb electromagnetic radiation from visible lights. This discovery paved the way for more inventions.

In 1883, Charles Fritts, an American inventor, used Smith’s study to create the first solar cells from selenium. He had high hopes for his invention, thinking it would replace Thomas Edison’s power plants in providing energy to more people. However, selenium takes a while to harness energy and convert sunlight to usable electricity. Fritts’ solar cells were deemed impractical, but they became the bedrock for more fruitful discoveries and inventions in the future.


The research on solar cells continued, but it was only until the 1950s that another significant advancement in the technology was made. Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson created better solar cells using silicon.

The three of them were scientists from Bell Labs, a research and development company in the U.S. They observed that silicon would be a better material to use when making solar cells. After all, the element conducts and stores energy more efficiently than selenium. Silicon is also more abundant and, therefore, easier to obtain.

Their discovery was nothing short of revolutionary. The New York Times even described it as “the beginning of a new era.” It was believed at the time that solar cells would become widely available and help power up homes using the unlimited energy from the sun. That wasn’t what happened, though. When the cells became commercially available, they were sold at such a high price that common people couldn’t afford them.

1960s to 1990s

Even if ordinary citizens couldn’t afford solar cells, the government had enough money to buy and use them for various projects. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, satellites launched by NASA were powered by large photovoltaic cells.

In the early 1970s, Exxon Mobil, one of the largest oil companies, funded a study to lower the costs of solar cells. They were successful in doing so, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Elliot Berman. This was when people started becoming less dependent on oil for power.

Another significant advancement in the technology was promoted by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He installed large solar panels onto the White House roof in an attempt to encourage Americans to use cleaner and more renewable energy.

Modern Developments

The advancements in solar technology continued. Large solar facilities were established to harness more energy from the sun and power up more buildings. They were also able to make the cells more accessible to people.

Solar Panels in Space

The first time solar panels were used in space was in the 1950s and 1960s when NASA launched solar-powered satellites. However, further research allowed for even more efficient cells to be used. Newer satellites and aircraft were launched, like one in 1998 called the “Pathfinder.” This lightweight and remote-controlled aircraft stayed in flight for hours to demonstrate how long solar-powered devices can last in the air.

Another significant development happened at the turn of the millennium. Astronauts began installing high-powered solar cells in the International Space Station. It was reported that each “wing” of the station consists of more than 30,000 individual cells.

Solar Energy in Businesses

Solar technology was made more accessible to the public when it was used to power various establishments and buildings. In 1999, 4 Times Square was built, which, at that time, was the tallest skyscraper in New York City. A huge portion of the building featured photovoltaic cells that produced a large amount of energy for the high-rise tower.

The merging of two energy-efficient lighting technologies—LED and solar power—became popular in the 2000s. In 2002, Union Pacific Railroads installed LED-powered solar lights in their rail yard in Nebraska, which was considered the largest rail yard in the U.S.

Solar Lights at Home

It wouldn’t take long until solar energy would be brought back home. The technology traveled far and wide and eventually reached many countries, including the Philippines.

Today, solar lights in the Philippines are becoming more and more popular. They used to be only installed on the streets and other outdoor areas where they could gather more sunlight. As the technology evolved, solar lights started to illuminate indoor spaces, as well. They help households a lot in saving up on their energy bills.

If you wish to learn more about solar lights that you can install in your home or office building, do not hesitate to contact a trusted supplier like Ecoshift Corporation. Our company can provide you with LED solar lights that you can use for various purposes. Check out what we offer by browsing through our website today!


It seems like people have come full circle. We used to rely on the sun for light and energy in the olden times, and that’s what we still do today, even though the process is entirely different and more advanced now.

Solar technology has come a long way indeed, and it seems like more and more developments will emerge in the future. It wouldn’t be so far-fetched to expect that solar light prices in the Philippines would also start going down.

For now, it’s best to invest in high-quality solar-powered lights, even though they can be pretty expensive. Whether it’s for commercial or residential purposes, you’ll surely get your money’s worth in the long run because you’d save a lot on your electric bills.

Contact us today at Ecoshift Corporation for high-quality lighting fixtures. Whether you need indoor lamps or solar street lights in the Philippines, our company can offer them to you! Get in touch with us today to learn more.


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