From the earliest times, humans have used nature - wind and water - to obtain energy. They built windmills to irrigate the fields and to grind flour and water-powered mills for industrial production. The 19th century was the age of many inventions, when the first machine-turbine for electricity production was constructed. Small hydropower plants were built to dam up water. Then high dams were built on large rivers with power plants that supplied electricity to large cities and industrial plants. Other large power plants burned coal and oil (non-renewable energy) to generate electricity. These fossil fuels are slowly depleting and new structures have been built for decades to obtain energy from nature.
Increasing prices of energy from burning coal and oil, diminishing resources on Earth and environmental pollution are the reasons why people and industry are interested in renewable energy sources. They use the power of water, sun and wind, heat from under the Earth’s surface (geothermal) and sea waves. Garbage (organic waste from landfills or fast-growing plants) has also been used recently to generate electricity when burned - that's biofuel and biomass - or to extract gas from rotting waste.
The turbines have been in operation for over 1,000 years and are located in the village of Nashtifan, in northern Iran. These early wind turbines are made of natural materials such as clay, straw and wood. They drive stone mills to grind grain into flour.
Europe, off the coast of Portugal, in 2019, the offshore wind farm WindFloat was launched with a total capacity of 25 MW
The farm supplies electricity to approximately 60,000 users. In offshore wind energy, turbines are not installed on the seabed but on floating, anchored platforms.
Even with a slight gust of wind, the panels rotate, generating electricity that is sent to the electricity grid or to the immediate vicinity (houses, offices, street lighting). They are set up in many cities in France and in other European countries.
Small wind power systems are affordable, compact, pretty and versatile - they can be used in a wide variety of applications, from yachts and street lighting to building roofs. They can be easily connected with photovoltaic panels, creating a system of installations of complementary energy sources.
In the West, rows of wind microturbines are installed, for example, on the roofs of apartment blocks, which is an example of an interesting development of such areas. Microturbines are quiet, safe for fauna (eg birds and bats - unlike wind farms) and have an aesthetic appearance. Due to their small size and the ability to work regardless of the wind direction, they are very attractive.
Before the invention of electric machines, hydropower was used to drive mills, forges, sawmills, in the textile industry and in other industrial plants. In the 1830s, the water drive was used to move barges along the slipways between sections of the canals at different levels (such slipways have survived to this day in the Elbląg Canal). Small hydropower plants were built on smaller rivers.
In areas with large rivers (hydropower), big dams were built to hold the water. The force of the falling water runs the machines that produce electricity. Existing dams produce a lot of electricity and supply it to cities and industrial plants. Building dams is associated with environmental damage and flooding of villages and towns by the lakes. That is why engineers and inventors are now thinking about harnessing the power of sea waves and currents.
a small water power plant on the Bóbr river with a capacity of 2 MW (megawatts) built in 1925
The dam in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, on the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada, was the largest in the world at the time of its creation, and today it is in the 38th place.
The Swedish-Israeli start-up (company) Eco Wave Power has developed a patented technology that allows the production of green electricity from sea and ocean waves. Boat-shaped floats use the up and down motion of the sea to generate clean and cheap electricity.
Nesjavellir Power Station, Iceland's second largest geothermal (hot water) power plant provides 120 MW of electricity. It also provides 300 MW of thermal energy in the form of hot water (1,800 liters per second), meeting the needs of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, and surrounding towns.
Turbines are installed in the pipes with the flowing water. The water in the pipes has a high speed and turns the turbines that produce electricity. Thanks to this solution, the plant will produce an additional 1 GWh (gigawatt hour) of energy annually - that's an amount needed to power 150 homes.
Solar energy use began in the second half of the 20th century, at first to a small extent due to the high production costs. It could be used to power electronic watches, calculators, speed cameras, cameras on the streets, individual houses away from the power grid, yachts, camping cars, as well as space installations, e.g., satellites.
From early in the 21st century, various countries began to pay extra (state subsidies) for the production and installation of solar devices. This sparked a rapid growth in interest in converting solar energy into electricity (photovoltaics). Huge solar power plants are being built to power cities and industry. Settlements and villages, estates, and groups of friends invest in this type of energy. The most popular devices are photovoltaic panels, which supply electricity to various appliances in the house, and solar collectors (panels), which convert solar energy into heat energy and are used to heat water or to support central heating of rooms.
SEGS III–VII solar power plant SEGS II–VII is one of three solar power plants in the Mojave desert, where the Sun shines for 340 days a year.
A 70-meter long path generated electricity for one household for the entire year! In many countries, research is underway on the possibility of using road surfaces with photovoltaic panels for the production of electricity, road lighting, for nearby towns, and for charging bicycles and electric cars.
built by the Strabag company. In 2016, the TPA laboratory in Pruszków made what they called a blue bike path. The surface of the glowing path contains the so-called phosphors. These are special synthetic substances that "recharge" with daylight and then release the accumulated energy at night.