It’s all true. Nikola Tesla was an eccentric who feared germs, loathed pearls and communicated telepathically with pigeons in his later years. He also held nearly 300 patents in 26 countries. He was also the visionary genius who brought us Alternating Current, the electric motor, the first remote control device and ex-rays—just to name a few. Although his many inventions did not deliver free power in his time, the Nikola Tesla papers envisioned renewable energy for a better future.
“Whatever our resources of primary energy may be in the future, we must, to be rational, obtain it without consumption of any material.” Nikola Tesla, Century Magazine, June 1900.
It was clear to Tesla that a new and better source of power had to be discovered to meet the ever-increasing demands of mankind. In a lecture delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at Columbia University May 20, 1891, he said:
“We are whirling through endless space with inconceivable speed, all around us everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly. Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides.”
With the Industrial Revolution came an endless appetite for the consumption of energy. In 1875, coke made from coal replaced charcoal as the primary fuel for making steel. By the 1880s, coal was used to generate electricity for homes as well as factories.
In “Our Future Motive Power” published in Everyday Science and Mechanics, December 1931, Tesla said:
“The thermo-dynamic process is wasteful and barbarous, especially when burning coal, the mining of which, despite of modern improvements, still involves dangers to the unfortunates who are condemned to toil deep in the bowels of the earth.”
While he felt that oil and natural gas were superior to coal as fuel sources, all were limited.
“So great has been the drain on them of late years that the specter of exhaustion is looming up threateningly in the distance, and everywhere the minds of engineers and inventors are bent upon increasing the efficiency of known methods and discovering new sources of power.”
Even Jules Verne addressed the coal issue in his 1889 novel, The Purchase of the North Pole, a.k.a. Topsy Turvy. Although a whimsical adventure, it dealt with the serious issue of mankind’s increasing appetite for coal. In it, the main characters scheme to win the North Pole in an international auction. Their plan is to blow earth off its axis with a giant gun so the Arctic would become warm and its natural resources could be exploited more easily.
Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring California’s utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of 2020. Many states have set individual renewable energy goals with solar power being included in various proportions.
Nikola Tesla was fascinated by the power of electricity in nature even as a small child. He believed that nature has provided an abundant supply of energy in various forms that must be utilized by humankind.
“The sun’s rays falling upon the earth’s surface represent a quantity of energy so enormous that but a small part of it could meet all our demands… The energy of light rays, constituting about 10% of the total radiation, might be captured by a cold and highly efficient process in photo-electric cells which may become, on this account, of practical importance in the future.”
Nikola Telsa, “Our Future Motive Power” —Everyday Science and Mechanics, December 1931
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 20% of the electricity in the United States could be provided from wind energy with the existing transmission infrastructure. That’s more than nuclear energy and about the equivalent of natural gas.
“…since time immemorial man has had at his disposal a fairly good machine which has enabled him to utilize the energy of the ambient medium. This machine is the windmill. Contrary to popular belief, the power obtainable from wind is very considerable…The fact is that a wave- or tide-motor would have, as a rule, but a small chance of competing commercially with the windmill, which is by far the better machine, allowing a much greater amount of energy to be obtained in a simpler way.”
The Problem Of Increasing Human Energy by Nikola Tesla, Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1900.
Hydropower is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy. According to the International Energy Agency, it represents about 16% of total electricity production. Roughly two-thirds of the economically feasible potential remains to be developed
The first commercial hydroelectric power plant was built at Niagara Fall in 1879. In 1893 Westinghouse Electric designed a large AC system for Niagara Falls. It was activated on August 26, 1895. Niagara Falls was the final victory of Tesla’s Polyphase Alternating Current (AC) Electricity, which is today lighting the entire globe.
On November 15th 1896, the City of Buffalo joined the power grid being generated from Niagara Falls, approximately 26 miles away. It became the first long distance transmission of steady supplies of clean, carbon-free hydroelectricity for commercial purposes.
In his speech at the opening ceremony of the hydroelectric power station, January 12, 1897, Nikola Tesla said:
“It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering.”
The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) estimates that only 6.5% of global potential has been tapped. With Geothermal power plants, greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide are less than 5% of conventional coal-fueled plants. A geothermal resource assessment shows that nine western states have the potential to provide 20% of national electricity needs.
“It is a well-known fact that the interior portions of the globe are very hot, the temperature rising, as observations show, with the approach to the center at the rate of approximately 1C for every hundred feet of depth.” Nikola Tesla: The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, 1901
“All that is necessary to open up unlimited resources of power throughout the world is to find some economic and speedy way of sinking deep shafts.” Nikola Tesla: Our Future Motive Power, 1931
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