Sunday, January 03, 2010

Green energy, 19th century-style

Over a hundred years ago, just like today, concerns over the price and accessibility of a major energy source of that day, coal, lead to development of novel technologies. Eventually, oil emerged as "the fuel" of the 20th century.

Sir William’s [Lord Kelvin] 1881 paper attributed to the heat of the sun — directly or indirectly — almost all the sources of motive power or work on earth. Echoing the central argument of William Stanley Jevons’s book, The Coal Question (1865), he noted that as the subterranean coal stores of the world were becoming exhausted, ‘surely and not slowly’, the price of coal was upward-bound, making windmills or ‘wind-motors’ as well as water-wheels likely to come into their own. Indeed, one of the principal aims of the paper was to point out the feasibility of economical power transmission over long distances by means of electric current generated by water power through the use of efficient vortex turbines of the kind patented by his engineer brother James.

Source: Smith, C. 2006. Dreadnought Science: The Cultural Construction of Efficiency and Effectiveness. TRANSACTIONS- NEWCOMEN SOCIETY. 2007, VOL 77; NUMB 2, pages 191-216

tags: military, innovation, energy, transportation, source, payload,

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