You wouldn't know it today, but the silicon photovoltaic solar cell—the standard, black-and-copper solar panel you can find on suburban rooftops and solar farms—was born and raised in America.
The technology was invented here. In 1954, three American engineers at Bell Labs discovered that electrons flow freely through silicon wafers when they are exposed to sunlight.
It was deployed here. In 1958, the U.S. Navy bolted solar panels to Vanguard 1, the second American satellite in space.
And for a time, it was even made here. In the 1960s and '70s, American companies dominated the global solar market and registered most solar patents. As late as 1978, American firms commanded 95 percent of the global solar market, according to one study.