We’ve all heard the term ‘alternative energy’ but how much do we really know about it. The fact is alternative energy encompasses a myriad of sub-topics that include wind, water, geothermal, nuclear, and more. This page is dedicated to showing you how it all began and who came up with the bright idea of looking for an alternative form of energy.
Let’s start with a quick question to get your minds cranking:
Question: Which came first solar or nuclear energy?
Answer: Read the rest of this page to find out.
Sorry, but we here at benefits-of-recycling.com don’t want you to miss any of the details on this very important section. Our history teaches us what things worked and which things didn’t. Patterns are discovered so we can be prepared, and people you had never heard of before emerge as heroes for us to emulate. So read on, take notes and enjoy.
History of Alternative Energy / Alternative to what?
The history of the alternative energy sources dates back to ancient times. In fact, any new fuel, discovered by humans, became alternative to the old ones at some period of time. For example, in the Middle Ages coal became an alternative to wood, which people commonly used earlier to heat their houses and cook food.
Later, at the early 19th century petroleum became an alternative option to whale oil, which was widely used for lighting lamps and resulted in serious destruction of whales in the oceans. The dawn of the 20th century was marked with the appearance of ethanol as the alternative to gasoline.
However, nowadays we put a new meaning into the term “alternative energy”. Today alternative energy is that derived from the sources, which do not deplete or exhaust natural resources and do not harm the environment. Modern understanding of the alternative sources of energy appeared about 1970th, when the most developed countries first felt the shortage of gas.
History of Alternative Energy / Why do we need an alternative?
The major problem with traditional fuels (which is also a major motivation for the development of the alternative sources) is that the natural resources of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, are rapidly diminishing. That results in the constant growth of prices for major fuels and high dependency of world economies on imported energy sources.
Another aspect, traditional fossil fuels are widely blamed for, is their devastating effect on the environment of the planet.
Humanity has already faced serious consequences of thoughtless use of non-renewable natural resources: global warming and ozone depletion, caused by the vast emissions of greenhouse gases during burning fossil fuels, as well as air pollution and soil erosions, are only several examples of irreversible changes in the environment.
Happily, people have already realized their mistakes, and new eco-friendly sources of energy are developed and implemented widely around the world these days.
Modern alternative energy sources, such as wind or sun, are renewable, which means they will never be used up. Besides, alternative energy in its modern meaning is clean and eco-friendly, which is safe not only for humans, but for environment with its flora and fauna as well.
History of Alternative Energy / What are the major types of alternative energy?
Currently, alternative energy is mostly referred to the following:
- Solar energy (generating of electricity from sun)
- Wind energy (generating of electricity from wind)
- Geothermal energy (using hot water or steam from the Earth’s interior for heating buildings or electricity generation)
- Biofuel and Ethanol (plant-derived substitutes of gasoline for powering vehicles)
- Hydrogen (used as clean fuel for airplanes, spaceships, and vehicles)
Hydrogen alternative energy and nuclear energy are also frequently mentioned as the alternative sources of energy; however, they are surrounded by growing disputes on their safety for the environment, so it is still unclear how long those energy sources will remain marked as alternative and environment friendly energy sources.
History of Alternative Energy / A Timeline
Finally, to better illustrate the development of modern alternative sources of energy a short timeline with the major milestones is offered below.
1861 – Auguste Mouchout invented the first active steam engine, powered by the sun.
1839 – William Grove invented the first hydrogen fuel cell.
1888 – Charles Brush built the first windmill to generate electricity.
1892 – The world’s first heating system was built in Idaho, where geothermal energy was used to heat the buildings.
1904 – Larderello Fields (Italy) built the first plant to convert geothermal heat into energy.
1908 – Henry Ford built the first mass-produced vehicle, called Ford T Model, running on ethanol. These vehicles remained in production until 1927.
1936 – The world’s largest Hoover Dam was built on Colorado River.
1953 – The first solar cell, capable of generating electricity, was made at Bell Laboratories.
1958 – The first solar powered satellite was launched in the USA.
1981-1990 – Over 17000 wind machines were built in California.
2006 – The largest offshore wind turbine, called Repower, capable of generating 5 megawatt of electricity, was first installed in the North Sea.
2006 – Geothermal power plant was built in Alaska, which can generate electricity from geothermal water with the record low temperature of 57°C.
2007 – Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999, powered by hydrogen, reached record speed of over 207 mph.
2009 – The two-seat sun-powered airplane SkySpark reached the record speed of 250 km/h.
History of Alternative Energy / Sources
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