With the advent of the Internet of Things, energy- and bandwidth-related issues are becoming increasingly prominent in the context of supporting the massive connectivity of various smart devices. To this end, we propose that solar cells with the dual functions of energy harvesting and signal acquisition are critical for alleviating energy-related issues and enabling optical wireless communication (OWC) across the satellite–air–ground–ocean (SAGO) boundaries. Moreover, we present the first comprehensive survey on solar cell-based OWC technology. First, the historical evolution of this technology is summarized, from its beginnings to recent advances, to provide the relative merits of a variety of solar cells for simultaneous energy harvesting and OWC in different application scenarios. Second, the performance metrics, circuit design, and architectural design for energy-autonomous solar cell receivers are provided to help understand the basic principles of this technology. Finally, with a view to its future application to SAGO communication networks, we note the challenges and future trends of research related to this technology in terms of channel characterization, light source development, photodetector development, modulation and multiplexing techniques, and network implementations.