A Brief History of Renewable Energy

A Brief History of Renewable Energy

History of Renewable Energy

At POB Solar NI we are passionate about Renewable energy. In today’s modern world, people are rightly concerned about finding new sources of renewable energy. With so many of our non-renewable resources expected to dry up over the next 25 years, the focus has shifted from just preservation to replacement. However, finding a replacement for non-renewable resources such as fuel and electricity has not been as simple as it sounds. The following is a brief history of the quest to isolate renewable resources that will allow us to maintain our quality of life as we know it in the future.

Renewables: Development

The development of geothermal energy can be traced back to 1905 when a farmer drilled a well to find fresh water he could use on his land. Instead, he found hot water that would quickly turn into steam as it hit the cool air. From this discovery, the idea of placing a turbine over steam was created in an effort to generate electricity. This principle has been expanded upon a great deal over the last century, and today there are geothermal plants in existence across the globe that create clean energy 24/7.

Hydrokinetics has one of the longest histories of any of the renewable energy sources, with its first application coming about in 200 BCE more than 2000 years ago. Water wheels and watermills were created in China, Imperial Rome, and India to power a grind to process flour, and a saw to cut stone and timber. Today the energy source is being used to generate energy from ocean and river currents without harming the natural aquatic life.

Wind energy also has a long history dating back to 1700 BCE when Hammurabi, the emperor of Babylonia, used wind to attempt to irrigate farmland. However, the power of wind energy was not truly realized until Heron of Alexandria, a Greek engineer, created a wind wheel so that the wind could be used to power a machine. Wind farms today are still in use to create clean power, and as prices continue to drop, wind energy is almost as efficient as coal.

Solar Energy

Solar power using photovoltaics has a more contemporary history that can be traced to 1887 when Heinrich Hertz recorded the photoelectric effect. He saw that when light hit substances that conducted electricity, the electrons would flow. Albert Einstein looked in the matter a bit more deeply and won the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his observations. Today researchers are attempting to make solar energy more efficient and cost effective by looking at nano-scale quantum physics applications.

Last on the list is the lesser known renewable energy known as biomass, which is the process of creating energy from materials that come from living or recently living organisms. Fire is an example of biomass energy and evidence of fire being utilized to cook food traces back to 400,000 BCE. Over the last century gasification and pyrolysis processes have helped make it easier to get energy from biomass products such as plant clippings, trash, tires, and even animal manure.