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A History Of Alternative Energy: Part One

A History Of Alternative Energy: Part One

Nowadays it isn’t so uncommon to see sustainability all around us, whether it’s from the solar panels on your neighbour’s roof or the guide on your fridge reminding you when the recycling truck comes to your neighbourhood. However, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come, as well as how far we have left to go. The first part of the history, from 200 BC to the mid 1900s, we can see a birth of understanding in the natural resources around us and the ways we can use them to better our lives and our environment.


Natural Gas Resources

The first use of natural gas was in China. They used it to create salt from brine in gas-fired evaporators, digging shallow wells and moving the gas through to the evaporators using bamboo pipes.

Water Energy

Water energy was harnessed in Europe with the creation of the vertical waterwheel. The waterwheel was used to crush grain, saw wood, full cloth, smelt and shape iron, and many other industrial needs. Location with good water-power resources became the centres of economic and industrial activity and water energy was heavily relied upon.

10th Century

Wind Energy

Persia has been proven to have been the first to make use of natural wind resources. They built vertical windmills that they used to reuse water from streams and grind corn. This invention spread to China, India and other areas of the Muslim world.



Windmill Development

The Dutch began building windmills in the 1590s. Their efficient form and size allowed multiple uses such as grinding grain, sawing wood and grinding spices in large quantities.


Natural Gas Development

In 1821 the first natural gas well was built in America. During this time natural gas was primarily used as a source of light. Due to the way the infrastructure was built around the wells, it was difficult to transport the gas very far so it was usually used close to the wells.


Water-Pumping Windmills

In 1857 a Connecticut mechanic named Daniel Halladay perfected his windmill design that soon transformed the Western America landscape. The windmill’s became a popular water-pumping tool for railroad builders and Western homesteader’s.


Solar Energy

The first solar power system was developed in France by Augustine Mouchot who was concerned that fossil fuels, such as coal, would run out. He developed a solar powered steam generation system with an aim to drive industrial machinery with it. His research soon led him to create the first sun motor which used the heat from concentrated sunlight to produce steam.


Solar Development

In 1876 Werner von Siemen discovered that he could use sunlight to power selenium. Although the selenium solar cells failed to power electrical equipment it was still an important achievement as they proved that a solid material could change light into electricity without the need for heat or movement.


Electricity Generating Windmill

In 1888 Charles F. Brush developed the first windmill that was capable of generating electricity in Cleveland, Ohio.


Vegetable Oil Engines

In 1990 in Paris the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil was demonstrated at the World’s Fair.


From Windmills To Wind Turbines

The first commercial wind turbines were sol to generate electricity on remote farms by the Jacobs Wind Electric Company in 1927. The wind powered turbine was based on the previously mentioned water pump design, but instead they replaced the blades of the water pump mills with modern air plane propellers.


Hydroelectric Power

In 1935 the Hoover Dam was built on Colorado River, Arizona. Until 1958 it was universally recognised as the world’s largest producer of hydroelectric power.

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