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When solar turns 60 and grid parity becomes reality

By Elaine Hsieh, Program Director & Senior Analyst – VERGE

Just as we celebrate Earth Day’s 44th year this week, Friday marks the 60th anniversary of the first practical solar cell. Back in 1954, all the solar cells in the world delivered about one watt.
Now, more than 100 billion watts (a.k.a. 100 gigawatts) of generating capacity of solar photovoltaics have been installed globally. Also this year, solar reaches the Holy Grail: grid parity, when solar panels generate electricity at costs equal to or less than that produced by fossil and nuclear fuels.

As a result of this important milestone, businesses and governments are justifiably accelerating their renewables integration efforts. Many of our stories this week show how the growth of solar and other clean energy sources are creating exciting new opportunities for both the private and public sectors.

Highlights include Apple’s 100-percent renewables commitment, RMI’s plan to help Fortune 500 companies increase and scale their renewables efforts, and EDF’s new initiative to spark more efficiency and localized clean energy across nine of the most energy-intensive U.S. states.

In celebration of that first solar cell, check out this vintage 1956 film of the development of the Bell Solar Lab Battery. Despite some projector mishaps, it’s a good tutorial on how solar photovoltaic cells work.