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Renewable Energy- Is it new?

Mar 1, 2019 | Sustainability

Renewable energy is the new black. The grid operators are trying to integrate it into the grid while the consumers like you and I identify it as a means to save the world from pollution to advance the human society beyond conventional exhaustible energy sources. But was conventional energy always a convention? Is renewable energy the new guy on the block? 

Dutch Windmills. Courtesy of Windmills and Other stories.

Coal is the earliest conventional energy source known to man. While the Chinese began using it three thousand years ago, it took the West a lot more to understand the capability of coal which then revolutionised the industries. So what did our forefathers use as an energy source? When did the first windmills pop up? This blog will take you through the history of renewable energy.

The title of father of energy goes to biomass, when the early foragers used wood to fuel fires more than three-quarters of a million years ago! The knowledge of energy storage and clothing helped our ancestors survive the last ice age. We would not be here if it wasn’t for renewable energy then! Fire from biomass helped us get accustomed to cooking. A game of RuneScape or Age of Empires will help you figure out how we progressed from the dark ages.

Courtesy of Nautical d├ęcor.

Wind has always been on our side. But it was around 7000 years ago when a few brilliant Persians decided to take advantage of it and set sail. The wind was the primary source of energy for marine logistics for the most parts of human civilisation. The Greeks began using the wind on land, harnessing the energy to turn a wind-wheel. The Tibetan and Chinese prayer-wheels harnessed wind to rotate themselves. I’ve seen many being used in the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan.

Hydro does not fit into the stereotypical category of renewable energy, as it is thought of as bulky and slow. These are the words that do not associate with the 21st century notion of future energy. The Indians began using the water-wheels around 2500 years ago. Water-power was also used in mining and extraction of ores by the Spanish conquerors in the first century. Islamic engineers in the middle ages built several water-powered devices that included clocks, wine-serving equipment and hydraulic lifts.

Solar is an amalgam of contradictions. You could call it the most ancient form of energy as it provided the energy to the plant kingdom even before the existence of humans. Then there was the story of Archimedes using concentrated solar beams to ward off the Roman armada. You could also call solar power a modern technology as its early development set off in the late 19th century in the city of New York.

Here, I have presented you a glimpse into the vast history of human civilisation. History is necessary for human development as it is critical to understand where we are on the planetary timeline before we move further ahead.