A Brief History of Energy

The very first energy source was the sun providing heat and light during the day. Later fire was discovered by a lightning strike, producing another source of heat and light.

Thousands of years later we discovered that the wind could be harnessed and we began to use sails on our boats for transportation. Later we began to use windmills to turn water wheels for grinding grain.

Throughout history, we have made lots of discoveries using energy. Before 1850, wood was our main source of fuel for heating, cooking and producing steam for powering steam engines for the railroads. Other sources of energy were water, wind, coal and some manufactured natural gas.

Natural gas was used as early as 500BC by the Chinese. They would find natural gas leaking from the ground and use bamboo to pipe the gas for use in boiling sea water to remove the salt.

Around 1816 manufactured natural gas, made from coal, was first used for street lights in Baltimore, Maryland.

From about 1850 to 1945, coal was the main fuel source. Wood was still an important energy source for heating as well as natural gas for lighting, but water and wind were used less.

For most of the 1900s, oil and natural gas were our main fuel sources. Electricity was used more in the late 1900s. From about 1945 to the present, nuclear and solar energy along with water and wind have played a larger role in the production of energy. Other alternative energy sources being used today are geothermal and biomass.