Historical and Current

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Before the 1900s, the world as a whole used wood (including wood converted to charcoal) for heat in homes and industry, vegetation for feeding draft animals, water mills for grinding grain and milling lumber, and wind for marine transportation and grain milling and water pumping. By the 1920s, however, coal and petroleum had largely replaced these energy sources in industrialized countries, although wood for home heating and hydroelectric power generation remained in wide use. At the end of the twentieth century, nearly 90 percent of commercial energy supply was from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy, however, makes important contributions to world energy supplies. Hydroelectric power is a major source of electrical energy in many countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Norway, and Russia. In developing countries many people do not have access to or cannot afford electricity or petroleum fuels and use biomass for their primary energy needs. For example, most rural people in Africa use wood, scrub, grass, and even animal dung for cooking fuel. Small-scale renewable energy technologies are often the only practical means of supplying electricity in rural areas of these countries. The table indicates the relative consumption of energy sources in the United States.

erated or created anew

Eric Hassett, general manager of Palo Alto Hardware, standing next to solar panels on top of his store in California. (AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.)

anaerobic a life or process that occurs in, or is not destroyed by, the absence of oxygen

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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