Harnessing sunlight for heating and other power purposes is not new. Solar collection devices were developed in the 17th century to protect plants brought from the tropics to northern countries, and both the first solar water heater and the first solar oven were developed the 18th century. Indeed, the solar power revolution has been on the verge of taking off for centuries.
In response to the Arab Oil Embargo, in part, the relatively new U.S. Department of Energy (along with other agencies) began a slew of programs to fund solar energy research, deployment and commercialization. Based strictly on performance, these programs have failed at the cost of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
More: http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/st334.pdf [PDF, 1.7 MB]