A Historic Timeline Of Renewable Energy

The oldest and most prominent sources of renewable energy can be separated into five clear categories – hydropower, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy and bioenergy. To document the history of these renewable energy sources from primitive use through the industrial revolution and into the 21st century, Compare the Market has created an infographic that tracks the known timeline of each source.



The research that went into informing the infographic also touches on the future of each energy source, including the countries that are leading the way by means of capacity and implementation of new technologies.

Some of the most interesting developments across all five renewable energy sources that are covered in the infographic include:

  • The first form of renewable energy, used in the Palaeolithic Age
  • Invention of the first water wheel, windmill and solar panel
  • Creation of the ‘Hotbox’ – a rectangular wooden box with a glass top that can boil water
  • The launch of the first spacecraft to use solar panels
  • Completion of the world’s largest hydroelectric powerplant

The supporting research also revealed some insights that look towards the future. When looking at the top countries with the capacity to install each type of renewable energy, statistics indicate that Italy and the United States are the only countries that consistently appear in the top ten for all five sources discussed in the research. This suggests that they could be leading the way in the global race towards efficient use of renewable energy sources.


As for which source is likely to have the biggest impact in the future, hydropower is expected to remain the largest source of renewable electricity in the world for quite some time. East Asia and the Pacific is currently the largest hydropower producing region, however the global count for hydroelectric power capacity reached a staggering 150 countries in 2019, due to its affordability, reliability and sustainability.

Sources of Information

  1. Cutler J. Cleveland, Concise encyclopedia of the history of energy, 2009. Published by Academic Press. Page 265, 269
  2. International Renewable Energy Agency – Country Rankings: https://www.irena.org/Statistics/View-Data-by-Topic/Capacity-and-Generation/Country-Rankings
  3. International Hydropower Association – 2020 Hydropower Status Report
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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com

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