Give Now

A Moment of Science

Solar Powered Oil Rigs

What non governmental industry was the first to use commercially produced photovoltaic solar cells?

oil rig

Photo: tsuda (Flickr)

Some oil rigs use solar power to help keep costs down.

What non governmental industry was the first to use commercially produced photovoltaic solar cells?  The answer may shock you but it is oil companies!

It seems weird, because why would oil companies need to use solar energy?

Why A Need For Solar Energy?

In the 1940s, when offshore oil and gas drilling got started in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore platforms were required to have hazard lights to warn ships of their presence. To power the lights, oil companies had to invest in big, expensive, non rechargeable batteries that needed replacing at least once a year.

By the early 1970s, when some of the first commercial solar cells were coming on the market, oil companies were ready to give them a try.

Working Well

So instead of large batteries, some oil companies fitted their offshore platforms with smaller, rechargeable batteries powered by solar panels. It worked so well that soon most rigs in the Gulf went solar.

I suppose solar energy makes a lot of sense any place that’s remote and doesn’t have a ready source of electricity.

There’s a lot of interest today in using solar power instead of electricity made by burning coal. But the fact is that for many years solar energy has been used to generate power when other sources aren’t available.

Read More: The History Of Solar (Energy.gov)

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science