In 1979, President Jimmy Carter made history when he installed the White House's first-ever solar panels. At the dedication, he was feeling pretty optimistic, saying,"In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy." His prediction fell short. Two years later, Ronald Reagan had them removed shortly after taking office. Even had Reagan not taken them down, the solar panels of the '70s can't hold a candle to those created today.
One common criticism of solar power is that it just isn't efficient — nearly 40 years after those presidential panels, most solar cells can only convert about a quarter of the sunlight they absorb into electricity. But a new design is challenging the status quo by absorbing nearly every frequency of sunlight.