Renewables: New Technologies for Old Forms of Energy

Published on Friday, 9 March 2018

“Our 35 plants in operation in Tuscany come from de Larderel’s intuition. They produce almost 6TWh a year and meet more than 30% of the regional energy demand.”

The technological evolution and innovation of that idea from the beginning of the nineteenth century is just the first page of a story that has now spread to Chile, Indonesia, Germany and the United States, where EGP is putting its experience to use in the geothermal sector.

Wind: from Persia to Scottish Cottages

Windmills, predecessors to our current wind turbines, already existed in Persia about 5000 years ago, but the first wind turbine dates back to 1887. It was built by James Blyth, a Scottish electrical engineer and scholar, who invented one to power the lights in his summer cottage in Marykirk, making it the first residence in the world powered by renewable energy.

The story of wind energy is intertwined with the study of aeronautics has been passed down to us with its usual three blades, which are now common in most wind turbines installed today on all continents, thanks to the intuition of a young man that built the first example in Denmark in 1956.

“Nowadays, wind is one of the most widespread and competitive renewables, with more than 500 GW of global installed capacity, predicted growth of approximately 59 GW in 2018 and a promise to contribute decisively to the green revolutions underway in Latin America and Asia.”

Water: the Most Ancient Innovation

Energy from water is the oldest renewable energy source and, at the same time, the one most projected toward the future. On one hand, large hydropower plants have guaranteed the highest percentage of clean energy for many countries for almost a century, on the other, futuristic technologies to make use of the immense energy potential of the sea are the most advanced research expressions into new forms of energy.

“Hydroelectric energy now represents about 90% of the global production from renewable sources and contributes 17% to the global total of installed capacity.”

The large dams built at the beginning of the twentieth century – the very first one was built in Canada in 1879 at Niagara Falls – are now joined by new colossal ones, thanks to projects in China and Latin America. But small water-flow systems are also growing, as are systems to make existing plants more and more efficient.

Marine energy is perhaps the least well-known of the forms of renewable energy, but according to estimates, it could reach 71 GW of installed capacity worldwide. Tides, waves and currents are unexplored assets that are present around the planet. New technologies, experimentation and pilot projects are springing up on this resource, bit by bit around the world.

Until a few years ago, renewable sources as a whole were just a drop in the ocean of global energy production. By 2022, according to the World Energy Outlook 2017, the generation capacity from clean sources will grow until it is 43% of the global energy mix. And the future is just getting started.