The Growth of Renewable Energy

A report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) shows an increased growth in renewable energy in 2010. 

In that year, this type of environmentally friendly energy accounted for about 16% of total energy consumption in the world and delivered nearly 20% worldwide electricity production. The global production of solar PV in 2010 was more than double that of the previous year. The PV installations in Germany alone exceeded the global installations in 2009. Although wind power led worldwide, more PVs were installed in Europe for the very first time (1).

While this green energy technology as we know it today developed from the late 20th century, people have actually been using green energy since time immemorial. People have used the sun, wind and water since pre-historic times. In fact renewable energy was the only energy source until fossil fuel was discovered in the 18th century.

The first recorded wind energy use was in 3200 BC when the Egyptians invented the sail. Edmond Becquerel discovered solar photovoltaics in 1839. Palmer Putnam built a 1.25 MW wind turbine in 1941 in New England but the project was suspended because of the world war (2).

However, it was the energy crisis experienced in America in 1970s that drew more attention to renewable energy sources. A $50 million, 2 MW turbine erected in North Carolina in 1979 sparked a lot of interest but it had serious design flaws and was dismantled two years later.

Nevertheless, there is strong growth in various of these energy sectors, including cooling, heating, transport fuel and power generation. Within the past decade, solar PV connected to the national grid has grown by an annual average of 60%. Between 2004 and 2009, the average annual growth rates for wind power, ethanol production and solar water heating were 27%, 20% and 19% respectively. More than 82 countries used wind power from just a few nations in the 1990s. The growth of geothermal and biomass power was also strong. (3)

About $50 billion was used globally in small-scale installation of solar water heaters and PV cells in 2009. China and Germany made the largest investments followed by America, Italy and Spain.

About 119 countries had set up concrete renewable energy policies by early 2011, with over half of them being developing nations.

Asian nations are taking a more active role in the production of renewable sources of energy, with China, South Korea and India being at the forefront. Considering global supplies, China produced 77% of solar hot water collectors, 40% of solar PV cells and 30% of wind turbines in 2009.

1.United Nations Environmental Program. Report Shows Continued Growth of Renewable Energy in 2010. Extracted on September 7, 2011 from www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=2647&ArticleID=8812
2.The Solar Guide. Renewable Energy History. Extracted on September 7, 2011 from www.thesolarguide.com/solar4scholars/renewable-history.aspx
3.Renewable Energy World. Extracted on September 7Article Submission, 2011 from www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/09/renewables-continue-remarkable-growth

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