Harnessing The Sun's Power

As you drive across Delaware, carefully inspect the roofs of the houses you pass. You’ll likely find at least one home with solar panels in every development, especially near the beaches. Photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, are a relatively new technology — they weren’t invented until the 1950s. Still, decades before the official dawn of the age of solar power, scientists and inventors were harnessing the power of the sun. One Delaware man played an important role in the construction of the first solar thermal power station, built in Maadi, Egypt, in 1912. Co-op member William Britland’s grandfather, John Elwell, helped construct the solar-powered facility outside of Cairo, saving the photos on this page as a keepsake from his adventure. 
According to an article published by the New York Times in 1916, inventor Frank Shuman developed and oversaw the construction of the facility, designed to use reflectors to boil water. The steam from the boiling water was then used to power an engine, which pumped water from the Nile River to nearby cotton fields. Britland said his grandfather also helped to build the Schuylkill Canals in Pennsylvania, before retiring to Greenwood, Delaware, in 
the 1930s. 
 

Harnessing the Sun's Power Images