Quick question: what’s the first word that comes to your mind when you hear renewable energy? Futuristic, new, efficient – more than likely you thought of a word somewhere along those lines. There are numerous sources of renewable energy from wind, to solar, hydroelectric, and beyond. Each source is worth learning about, but let’s focus on one that you may have come across already: wind energy.
Wind energy has been a staple throughout the history of the world, dating back to around 5,000 BC and the Egyptian empire, when people used wind energy to propel their boats along the Nile River. As civilizations continued to evolve, different empires began to adopt different uses for wind.
In 200 BC, you could find wind-powered water pumps in China, while in Persia and the Middle East windmills were used to grind grain. This evolution of wind energy continued to progress as global societies advanced technologically.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the U.S. finally began to use small wind-electric turbines. Once power lines began to transmit electricity in the 1930s, the use of wind turbines began to decline. Eventually, the U.S. found itself very dependent on foreign oil, which all came to a crash in the 1970s.
How the oil shortages of the 1970s set the stage for renewable energy.
The 1970s should forever be known as the time when renewable energy showed its value. In 1973, a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, marking the beginning of The Yom Kippur War (also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Ramadan War, or October War). When this took place, a handful of allies, including the U.S., came to Israel’s aid.
In response, the states of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries placed an embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. For every action there is always a reaction: in this case, it came in the form of an energy crisis. Because the U.S. was so dependent on foreign oil, the embargo crippled the economy and shifted life for American citizens.
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The embargo ended just a year later, but caused long-term damage to the price of oil and global economies. The embargo allowed the United States realized its high level of dependence on foreign oil. Seeking to reduce this reliance, the United States looked to create its own, local sources of energy. This drive ushered in the development of renewable energy, with wind as one of the primary sources.
Just six years later in 1979, the Iranian Revolution initiated a second oil crisis, keeping oil prices high and the energy industry in a state of disarray. This second blow further exposed the United States’ dependence on foreign oil and encouraged innovation to cut this reliance on foreign, and at times, politically volatile countries.
How wind energy has developed since the 1970s.
During the 1980s, the U.S. installed thousands of wind turbines throughout California. This was due in large part to federal and state government policies. According to Carbon Brief, “Following the 1970s oil crises, the federal government began offering tax credits for wind energy. This sparked a wind rush and the construction of wind farms, such as Altamont Pass in California.”
For 20 years lasting until the beginning of the 21st century, oil prices gradually dropped. When they reached levels below the pre-embargo rates, the renewable energy industry subsided, showing a priority for economic well being over environmental sustainability. However, with increased awareness of the negative impacts of fossil fuels, more people have chosen to conserve the environment at some monetary expense.
What the future holds for wind energy.
Although presently wind energy remains more expensive than fossil fuels, it has historically reduced in price and is on the path towards reaching a price competitive with fossil fuels.
Luckily we live in a day and age where environmental awareness is at an all-time high. Major corporations such as Ikea and Amazon have committed to wind farming. Furthermore, as the wind energy market is expanding to consumers nationwide, the future of wind energy sure seems prosperous.
On the consumer level, groups of people, like you, can have as much if not more of an impact than these large firms. By joining the Arcadia community, you will show demand for and preference of green energy sources to help stimulate further development of renewable energy. This movement can encourage even more businesses to source energy sustainably, creating a cyclical dynamic to inspire more use of renewable energy.