History of Energy

  • 100

    Chinese First to Refine Petroleum (Oil) for Use as an Energy Source

  • May 19, 1000

    Windmills Built in Persia to Grind Grain and Pump Water

    Windmills Built in Persia to Grind Grain and Pump Water
    "For the tenth century, we have material proof that windmills were turning in the blustery Seistan region of Persia. These primitive, vertical carousel-type mills utilized the wind to grind corn, and to raise water from streams to irrigate gardens... [T]heir use soon spread to India, other parts of the Muslim world, and China, where farmers employed them to pump water, grind grain, and crush sugarcane."
  • Dutch Build Windmills for Multiple Uses

    Dutch Build Windmills for Multiple Uses
    "The mill reached its greatest size and its most efficient form in the hands of the Dutch engineers toward the end of the sixteenth century... The Dutch provinces... developed the windmill to the fullest possible degree: it ground the grain produced on the rich meadows, it sawed the wood... and it ground the spices... Above all, the windmill was the chief agent in land reclamation. The threat of inundation by the sea led these North Sea fishermen and farmers to attempt not only to control the
  • Coal Begins to Displace Use of Other Energies

    Coal Begins to Displace Use of Other Energies
    "The great shift in population and industry that took place in the eighteenth century was due to the introduction of coal as a source of mechanical power, to the use of new means of making that power effective - the steam engine - and to new methods of smelting and working up iron. Out of this coal and iron complex, a new civilization developed... By the end of the eighteenth century coal began to take the place of current sources of energy... Wood, wind, water, beeswax, tallow, sperm-oil - all
  • First Steam Engine Developed in England to Pump Water Out of Coal Mines

    First Steam Engine Developed in England to Pump Water Out of Coal Mines
    "By 1700 [coal] mine shafts were as deep as 200 feet. There were problems down there with gases and especially with flooding... Muscle, animal and human, and sometimes watermills and windmills were put to work lifting the water out of the mines, but it was an endless battle that technology circa 1700 could not win... Coal, the Carboniferous legacy of stored sunlight, would solve that problem. Coal would be burned to power the heat engine... [Thomas] Newcomen... built a steam machine close by
  • First Natural Gas Well in US Is Drilled

     First Natural Gas Well in US Is Drilled
    "In 1821, the first well specifically intended to obtain natural gas was dug in Fredonia, New York, by William Hart. After noticing gas bubbles rising to the surface of a creek, Hart dug a 27 foot well to try and obtain a larger flow of gas to the surface. Hart is regarded by many as the 'father of natural gas' in America... During most of the 19th century, natural gas was used almost exclusively as a source of light. Without a pipeline infrastructure, it was difficult to transport the gas ver
  • Coal Becomes Primary Locomotive (Train) Fuel in US, Displacing Wood

    Coal Becomes Primary Locomotive (Train) Fuel in US, Displacing Wood
    "The first major boon for coal use occurred in 1830 when the Tom Thumb, the first commercially practical American-built locomotive, was manufactured. The Tom Thumb burned coal, and in rapid fashion, virtually every American locomotive that burned wood was converted to use coal. America's coal industry had begun taking shape."
  • First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developed to Generate Electricity

    First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developed to Generate Electricity
    "William Robert Grove (1811 -1896), a Welsh lawyer turned scientist, won renown for his development of an improved wet-cell battery in 1838. The 'Grove cell,' as it came to be called, used a platinum electrode immersed in nitric acid and a zinc electrode in zinc sulfate to generate about 12 amps of current at about 1.8 volts... In 1800, British scientists William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle had described the process of using electricity to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen. But combi
  • First Solar Power System Developed in France to Produce Steam to Drive Machinery

    First Solar Power System Developed in France to Produce Steam to Drive Machinery
    Worried by the possibility of fossil fuels, such as coal, running out, Augustine Mouchot develops a solar powered steam generation system to drive industrial machinery. Mouchot felt it was possible that the sun's heat could replace the burning of coal to run Europe's industries. Mouchot's research into mirror technology led him to develop the first sun motor. The sun motor used the heat from concentrated sunlight to produce steam which was used to drive machinery.
  • First Windmill to Generate Electricity Developed in Cleveland, Ohio

    First Windmill to Generate Electricity Developed in Cleveland, Ohio
    Charles F. Brush develops the world's first windmill that can generate electricity as described in an 1890 issue of Scientific American: "With the exception of the gigantic windmill and electric plant shown... we do not know of a successful system of electric lighting operated by means of wind power. The mill here shown, as well as all of the electrical apparatus used in connection with it... have been designed and carried out according to the plans of Mr. Charles F. Brush, of Cleveland Ohio
  • First Diesel Engine to Run on Vegetable Oil Demonstrated at World's Fair in Paris

    First Diesel Engine to Run on Vegetable Oil Demonstrated at World's Fair in Paris
    "The first public demonstration of vegetable oil based diesel fuel was at the 1900 World's Fair, when the French government commissioned the Otto company to build a diesel engine to run on peanut oil. The French government was interested in vegetable oils as a domestic fuel for their African colonies. Rudolph Diesel later did extensive work on vegetable oil fuels and became a leading proponent of such a concept, believing that farmers could benefit from providing their own fuel. However, it woul
  • World's First Geothermal Power Plant Is Built in California

    World's First Geothermal Power Plant Is Built in California
    "The Geysers [72 miles north of San Francisco] were discovered in the early 1800's but were an untapped energy source for many years... [In 1921] John D. Grant drilled a geothermal well and ran a small direct-current generator which was used to provide electricity for lighting The Geysers resort. However, because the materials used at that time could not withstand the geothermal steam environment and because of the difficulties of drilling for geothermal steam, this resource could not compete at
  • First Commercial Wind Turbines Sold to Generate Electricity on Remote Farms

    First Commercial Wind Turbines Sold to Generate Electricity on Remote Farms
    Marcellus and Joe Jacobs develop the first commercially available wind turbine for electricity generation. The brothers knew that many remote farms were unable to electrify without using gasoline generators. Gasoline generators were too costly and inconvienient for many remote farms since gasoline had to be constantly transported in bulk over large distances. As a result, many farms remained unelectrified. The Jacob brothers created a wind powered turbine based on the design of earlier water
  • Hoover Dam, the World's Largest Hydroelectric Power Plant, Is Built

    Hoover Dam, the World's Largest Hydroelectric Power Plant, Is Built
    Hoover Dam is completed on the Colorado River in Arizona in 1935, four years after construction began in 1931. At the time of its completion, the Hoover Dam was the largest hydroelectric producer in the world. The dam remains the largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world until 1948.
  • First Controlled Nuclear Chain Reaction

    First Controlled Nuclear Chain Reaction
    "As the world went to war in the 1940s, [Physicist Enrico] Fermi and other physicists in Europe and America came to understand that a uranium atom split by a neutron would cause a self-perpetuating chain reaction of atom splitting that would release enormous energy. This process, called nuclear fission, suggested possible military applications, and Fermi and his colleagues at Columbia University joined with Albert Einstein to persuade the U.S. Government to study the idea. Meanwhile, at Columbia
  • Petroleum Becomes Most Used Fuel in the US

    Petroleum Becomes Most Used Fuel in the US
    Due primarily to demand caused by the automobile, 1950 is the first year that petroleum becomes most consumed fuel in the US.
  • First Nuclear Power Reactor to Generate Electricity Built in Idaho

    First Nuclear Power Reactor to Generate Electricity Built in Idaho
    "On Dec. 20, 1951, a nuclear reactor produced useful electricity for the first time. It was barely enough to power a simple string of four, 100-watt light bulbs, but the 16 scientists and engineers - all staff members of Argonne National Laboratory, which designed and built the reactor - recorded their historic achievement by chalking their names on the wall beside the generator. The reactor was Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I), housed in a small building that today still sits alone on
  • First Silicon Solar Cell Developed at Bell Laboratories

    First Silicon Solar Cell Developed at Bell Laboratories
    "In 1953, Bell Laboratories (now AT&T labs) scientists Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin and Calvin Fuller developed the first silicon solar cell capable of generating a measurable electric current. The New York Times reported the discovery as 'the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of harnessing the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.'"
  • Natural Gas Becomes a Major Fuel in US with Extensive Construction of Natural Gas Pipelines

    Natural Gas Becomes a Major Fuel in US with Extensive Construction of Natural Gas Pipelines
    Natural gas was not a widespread home fuel before the 1950s. Home use of natural gas required a large pipeline network for delivery and the cost of such a system was considered prohibitive. However, "improvements in metals, welding techniques and pipe making during the War [World War II] made pipeline construction more economically attractive. After World War II, the nation began building its pipeline network. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of miles of pipeline were constructed thro
  • First Commercial Nuclear Power Plant Begins Operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania

    First Commercial Nuclear Power Plant Begins Operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania
    The first large-scale nuclear power plant in the world began operating in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, on December 2, 1957 - exactly 15 years after Enrico Fermi demonstrated the first sustained nuclear reaction. The Duquesne Light Company of Pittsburgh built and operated the Shippingport plant on a site it owned on the Ohio River. The company also contributed to the cost of developing the government-owned reactor. Three years later, the Shippingport plant began supplying electricity to the Pittsb
  • First US Satellite in Orbit Utilizes Solar Cells for Power

    First US Satellite in Orbit Utilizes Solar Cells for Power
    "While efforts to commercialize the silicon solar cell faltered, the US Army and Air Force saw the device as the ideal power source for a top-secret project - earth-orbiting satellites. But when the Navy was awarded the task of launching America's first satellite, it rejected solar cells as an untried technology and decided to use chemical batteries as the power source for its Vanguard satellite. The late Dr. Hans Ziegler, probably the world's foremost expert in satellite instrumentation in the
  • First Commercial Scale Geothermal Electric Plants in the US Built in California

    First Commercial Scale Geothermal Electric Plants in the US Built in California
    "The first geothermal power plants in the U.S. were built in 1962 at The Geysers dry steam field, in northern California. It is still the largest producing geothermal field in the world."
  • Solar Cells Begin to Lower in Price and Become Cost Effective for Use on Land

    Solar Cells Begin to Lower in Price and Become Cost Effective for Use on Land
    "While the use of solar cells in space flourished during the 1960s and early 1970s, down on Earth electricity from the sun seemed as distant as ever. Cost was never a factor for space cells. Manufacturers worried more about size, efficiency and durability: the cost of the launch, and the continuing operation of equipment once in space far outweighed the price of power in space applications. But on Earth, the primary criterion is price per kilowatt hour. Solar-cell technology proved too expensiv
  • World's First Wind Farm Built in New Hampshire

    World's First Wind Farm Built in New Hampshire
    "In December 1980, U.S. Windpower installed the world's first wind farm, consisting of 20 wind turbines rated at 30 kilowatts each, on the shoulder of Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire. Like many firsts, it was a failure: The developer overestimated the wind resource, and the turbines frequently broke. U.S. Windpower, which later changed its name to Kenetech, subsequently developed wind farms in California, and after experiencing machine failure there too, improved its designs and beca
  • Solar One: First Large Scale Solar-Thermal Power Plant Begins Operation in Daggett, California

    Solar One: First Large Scale Solar-Thermal Power Plant Begins Operation in Daggett, California
    "Solar One began the first test of a large-scale thermal solar tower, power plant. Solar One was designed by the Department of Energy (DOE), Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the California Energy Commission. It was located in Daggett, California, which is about 10 miles east of Barstow. Solar One's method of collecting power was based on concentrating the sun's energy to produce heat and run a generator. A total of 1818 mirrors, or heliostats, would tr
  • Construction Begins on the World's Largest Wind Farm in California's Altamont Pass; Bird Deaths from Wind Turbines Number in the Thousands

    Construction Begins on the World's Largest Wind Farm in California's Altamont Pass; Bird Deaths from Wind Turbines Number in the Thousands
    "[Altamont Pass]... in Northern California, is home to one of the oldest wind farms in the U.S. and the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world. Altamont Pass is located one hour east of San Francisco, California and serves as a temperature buffer for the city by separating it from the heat of the San Joaquin Valley. Altamont Pass wind farm construction began in 1981 in response to favorable federal and state legislation that resulted from the energy price increases of the 1970s.
    Th
  • EV1 Electric Car Is Made Available to the Public For Lease; Lease Program and EV1 Later Dismantled by GM

    EV1 Electric Car Is Made Available to the Public For Lease; Lease Program and EV1 Later Dismantled by GM
    General Motors releases the EV1 to the public for lease to meet a 1990 California mandate that 2 percent of all cars sold in the state in 1998 be zero-emission vehicles. "A little over 1,000 EV1s were produced by G.M. before the company pulled the plug on the project in 2002 due to insufficient demand. Other major car makers also ceased production of their electric vehicles. In the wake of a legal challenge from G.M. and DaimlerChrysler, California amended its regulations and abandoned its [
  • Plans Announced to Build FutureGen, the Worlds First Zero Emissions Coal Power Plant

    Plans Announced to Build FutureGen, the Worlds First Zero Emissions Coal Power Plant
    "On February 27, 2003, the President announced FutureGen as a cost-shared project between DOE [Department of Energy] and industry to create the world's first coal-fired, zero emissions electricity and hydrogen production power plant. The production of hydrogen was to support the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to create a hydrogen economy for transportation. The original FutureGen plant was planned to operate at a commercial scale as a 275 megawatt IGCC [Integrated Gasification Combined Cyc
  • National Biofuel Action Plan Unveiled

    "Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ed Schafer and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today released the National Biofuels Action Plan (NBAP), an interagency plan detailing the collaborative efforts of Federal agencies to accelerate the development of a sustainable biofuels industry... The NBAP was developed in response to President Bush's plans to change the way America fuels its transportation fleets... The President's 'Twenty In Ten' goal calls for cutting U.S. ga
  • Ivanpah, the World's Largest Concentrated Solar Power Generation Plant, Goes Online

    Ivanpah, the World's Largest Concentrated Solar Power Generation Plant, Goes Online
    "As the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the world, Ivanpah harnesses the abundant sunlight of the Southwest United States to provide power on a massive scale. The facility has the capacity to generate 392 megawatts (MW) of clean electricity - enough to power 94,400 average American homes. Most of the power generated by the system will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Company... Ivanpah significantly expan