Green Energy: In it for the Long Haul

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3 Types of Renewable Energy That Were Being Used Before You Were Born

With the increasing popularity of green and renewable energy, the idea of using sustainable resources for power generation might seem fairly new. However, that’s not really the case. You might be surprised to learn that the use of renewable energy dates back a long, long time, and that ‘traditional energy’ is actually a much newer concept. Fossil fuels, like coal, didn’t pick up steam until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

So, here are three examples of renewable energy sources that have been around for centuries:


Hydropower, in one form or another, has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Some of the earliest water wheels were used in Egypt and Persia around the 4th century BC. Hydropower was also widely used in the Roman Empire and ancient Chinese dynasties.  

Today, hydropower is used to generate electricity. However, this method of using water for energy isn’t even that new, as the first hydroelectric power plant dates back to 1882 along the Fox River in Wisconsin. Even one of the most iconic of hydroelectric facilities, the Hoover Dam, was built back in the 1930s.

Wind Power

One of the earliest ways of using wind to generate power has been sailing ships, which were one of the oldest forms of transportation in human history. In fact, the earliest drawn depictions of such ships have dated back as far as 5500 BC.

Another historical method of harnessing wind for mechanical energy was (and in some areas, continues to be) windmills. While you may be picturing the large European-style windmills that were used grind grain, many don’t realize that a slimmer, nimbler version was also used to pump water and perform other tasks in the American West during the 1800s.

The first wind turbine was built in the United States in 1888, but today, wind turbines create electricity for people all over the world and are one of the most ubiquitous sources of renewable power.

Solar Power

Harnessing the sun’s rays for energy has also been used throughout history. As early as the 3rd century BC, Greeks and Romans were using mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to cook food and light torches. There are even historical accounts that Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes used a large magnifying glass or series of mirrors to create a ‘solar death ray’ that would light invading enemy ships on fire.

In 1883, American inventor Charles Fritts created the first functioning selenium solar cell. While initially not very efficient, his creation gave birth to one of the fastest-growing forms of renewable energy today.

As you can see, green and renewable forms of energy have been around since the dawn of civilization. And, while modern technology has transformed the way resources such as the wind, sun, and water are harnessed, the basic principles are the same. It may seem like the trend toward using these energy sources is fairly new, but that may simply be a result of the technology becoming cheaper and more efficient, or the rising awareness of subjects such as climate change, environmentalism, and the push toward American energy independence, rather than relying on foreign sources of fossil fuels.

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At IGS Energy, we supply electricity that is generated using 100% renewable sources, we counteract the impact of natural gas usage with carbon offsets, and we have the ability to provide solar to many areas across the U.S.

If you’d like to join the ever-growing sustainable energy movement, take a look at what we can offer you today.