Jun 14, 2014

Renewable Energy – wind and solar

The first wind turbines actually predate the electric power grid, with two near-simultaneous developments in the late 19th century. The Scottish engineer James Blyth constructed a 33- foot electricity-generating wind turbine in 1887, and the following year the American engineer Charles Brush built the first automatic wind turbine, wiring the first electrically powered building in Ohio. Likewise, throughout the 1800s, scientists were experimenting in the various technologies that make photovoltaic solar panels possible; the first solar powered steam engine was built in 1861.

Since then, the use of wind and solar power has grown steadily, with a surge in recent years. Wind power, while, still providing a small total percentage of U.S. power, is growing much more rapidly than solar power. From 1990 to 2008, U.S. production of wind power grew from 300 trillion Btu annually to 510 trillion; solar has increased modestly from 60 trillion BN to 90 trillion. Shipments of solar photovoltaic cells and modules continues to expand, however. From 2000 to 2008, U.S. manufacturers increased shipments of photovoltaic components from 20,000 modules in 2000 to 524,000 modules in 2008. Production of hydroelectric power, the nation's largest renewable energy source, has remained more or less steady since 1990, declining somewhat from 3.05 quadrillion Btu to 2.45 quadrillion Btu in 2008.

In 2008, the United States overtook Germany as the world's biggest producer of wind power. In the United States, Texas generates the most wind power, with more than double the capacity of the number two producer, Iowa. The state with the fastest-growing wind power industry is Michigan.

The 2009 federal stimulus package has helped spur development in both the wind and solar industries, with $16.25 billion earmarked by the U.S. Department of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The American Wind Energy Association reported a record year in 2009, installing equipment with over 10,000 megawatts of producing capacity that year. Overall, consumption of all renewable energy increased from 6.2 quadrillion Btu in 1990 to 7.3 quadrillion Btu in 2008. (‘The New York Times ‘Smarter by Sunday – 52 Weekends of Essential Knowledge for the Curious Mind’)