40 MOMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY HISTORY

First wind turbine for electricity production

Designed by Professor James Blyth in Scotland

1887

Based at Anderson’s College in Glasgow, now Strathclyde University, the Professor experiments with three different designs. It’s said the final prototype powered his Scottish home for 25 years.

First practical PV cell developed

Dawn of the modern solar power industry

1954

Three scientists at Bell Laboratories in the US - Daryl Chaplin, Gerald Pearson and Calvin Fuller - patent the silicon solar cell. Soon PV is being developed for Earth orbiting satellites.

World’s first large-scale nuclear plant opened in the UK by the Queen

Calder Hall in Cumbria generates for 47 years

1956

When the station, now Sellafield, was switched on, nearby Workington became the first ever town to receive heat, light and power from nuclear energy.

Global oil crises

Price soars from $3 to $12 and then to $34 a barrel

1973 & 79

Both crises prompts calls for energy conservation and drives new renewables development programmes in countries like the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark.

Sir Robert McAlpine develops vertical axis wind turbine on the Isle of Wight

Pioneering the technology

1980

Government invites a consortium to be formed and one Dr Ian Mays, later to become RES’ first CEO, is employed in the Projects Development team at SRM to work on the prototype.

RES is established, employing a handful of people in London

Focus shifts from technology to projects

1981

The company is a perfect combination of McAlpine’s construction capability, including building offshore concrete platforms for the oil industry, and RES’ wind turbine expertise.

World oil price slump

US wind energy market is a casualty

1986

The withdrawal of renewables financial incentives leads to the collapse of wind in the US and bankrupty for most Danish turbine suppliers.

New wind turbine prototype installed by RES & McAlpine consortium in Wales

The ‘Musgrove’ variable geometry VAWT

1986

Named after a British wind energy pioneer, the two-bladed vertical axis machine is 130kW and 25m in diameter. Modern offshore turbines can be 12MW and as high as the Eiffel Tower.

UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says global warming danger is real.

Groundbreaking speech to World Climate Conference

1990

The greenhouse effect had finally got the attention of politicians two years earlier. Thatcher warns the danger is “as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices”.

Denmark powers ahead with wind energy

Providing almost 2% of their electricity from wind

1990

With nearly 3000 turbines, Denmark now has more than double the capacity of the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, in the UK, Energy Minister Colin Moynihan opens RES’ next turbine prototype.

UK’s first commercial onshore wind farm built

At Delabole in Cornwall

1991

Developed by farmer and wind entrepreneur Peter Edwards, the wind farm has ten 400kW Vestas turbines, producing enough power for 2,700 homes a year.

World’s first offshore wind farm powers 2,200 Danish homes

Vindeby has eleven 450kW turbines

1991

Today’s projects are the size of small cities. Hornsea 1 powers more than a million homes and from 2022 Hornsea 2 will span an area over half the size of New York.

First lithium-ion battery appears on the market

Released by Sony for their handheld video recorder

1991

This technology development didn’t just usher in the new smartphone era, it paved the way for the electricity storage industry, essential for the transition to 100% renewables.

Rio Earth Summit - a global environmental milestone

Climate Change Convention signed by 154 countries

1992

The UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil has subsequently led to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement in 2015.

RES builds its first wind farm

15 turbines at Carland Cross in Cornwall

1992

The 6MW project is closely followed by commissioning of Coal Clough (9.6MW) in Lancashire. Both establish RES as a market leader in wind development.

First mass-produced, purpose-built electric car hits the market

Release of the EV1 by General Motors

1996

The world’s first ‘electric car’ was actually built in London in 1884 and electric taxis were widespread in New York in the early 1900s, but 1996 marks their commercial availability.

Kyoto Protocol signed

New global treaty to cut greenhouse gases

1997

Nations gather in Kyoto, Japan, to sign a new international commitment to reduce the manmade emissions that cause climate change.

RES installs first wind turbine to be designed and built in the UK

‘RES 1MW’ at Slievenahanaghan in Northern Ireland

1998

The turbine, designed and developd by RES’ own engineers, exceeds all its warranties for power performance, noise and availability in its first three years.

RES breaks industry records with world’s largest wind farm

280MW King Mountain built in Texas

2001

King Mountain - with 214 turbines and 80km of roads - would hold its title for several years. It consolidates RES’s reputation, beginning a wave of US wind farm development.

UK becomes leading offshore wind market overnight

1100MW and 11 sites launched by Crown Estate

2001

The programme delivers electricity for more than 1.1 million households and £1.6 billion in investment. RES successfully bids (with British Energy) to develop its first offshore project – Lynn and Inner Dowsing.

Global wind energy industry employs more than 70,000

Wind capacity quadruples in 5 years

2002

As the market booms, RES establishes Nordisk Vindkraft, so far yielding more than 400MW in Sweden, including Sidensjo, at 144MW the largest onshore wind farm RES has built in Europe.

World’s first and largest utility-scale offshore wind farm starts operating

Horns Rev 1 provides 2% of Danish electricity

2002

The project’s 80 Vestas 2MW machines located off the coast of Denmark generate enough power for 150,000 households.

RES opens its award-winning low carbon global HQ in England

Sustainability in action as company expands

2003

The conversion of the old Ovaltine egg farm includes a solar array, energy crops and a 25m wind turbine. It is a flagship for the company’s commitment to renewables.

The world’s largest hydroelectricity dam opens in China

Three Gorges spans 2.5km across the Yangste River

2003

This feat of engineering has a wall 181m high, used 463,000 tonnes of steel and cost US$32 billion to build. Its 22.5GW capacity can power 5.4 million households.

Groundbreaking German renewables support system becomes model for industry

Introduction of feed-in tariff for solar

2004

This vital incentive, subsequently introduced in several European countries, boosts the solar market. Costs plummet further later in the decade when China starts producing high volumes of solar panels.

Global renewable energy capacity passes 1,000 MW milestone

Onshore and offshore wind and solar lead growth

2006

As renewable energy advances around the world, RES successfully finances and builds the 60MW Whirlwind project in Texas.

EU sets ambitious renewables target in response to climate change

Goal of 20% of electricity by 2020

2008

Aiming to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and also enhance energy security, the target gives a boost to the European renewables market, particularly wind.

First demonstration of utility-scale battery storage

Project commissioned in US

2012

The 5MW/1.25MWh system is built for Portland General Electric (PGE) and is part of a US government Smart Grid Demonstration project.

World’s largest wind farm built off the coast of England

630MW London Array has 175 turbines

2012

In the same year this giant offshore project is commissioned in the Thames Estuary, RES develops the 500MW St Brieuc wind farm off the coast of Brittany, France.

Amount of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere passes 400ppm

For the first time in more than 3 million years

2013

When concentrations were last this high in the Pilocene era, camels lived in the Arctic, sea levels were 30 feet higher and the Earth was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer.

RES completes the Lincs offshore wind farm

270MW off the north east coast of England

2013

The project was developed and built by RES for Centrica, after a successful bid in Round 2 of the UK’s offshore wind programme.

RES builds its first battery energy storage system

4MW/2.6MWh Amphora project in Canada

2014

Energy storage will become a significant market for the RES Group as the technology becomes central to the global growth of renewables.

A major step is taken on global cooperation to address the climate crisis

Paris Agreement

2015

195 signatories commit to keeping global temperature rise to below 2 °C and to trying to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. The Agreement helps shift investment towards greener technologies.

Technology breakthrough as world’s first floating offshore wind farm opens

30MW Hywind project 25km off Scottish coast.

2017

Floating wind opens up the offshore wind market to development in much deeper waters. The potential is predicted to be massive – 4,000 GW in Europe alone.

Renewables make up more than a quarter of global electricity generation

26% from hydropower, solar and wind

2018

But the IEA warns that “renewable power … still needs to expand significantly to meet the SDS share of almost half of generation by 2030”.

World’s largest solar farm is built in India spanning 14,000 acres

2.25GW Bhadla Solar Park, Rajasthan

2020

The project remains the world’s largest in 2021. China, home to the 2nd largest solar farm, currently holds the largest global capacity share of the technology, with 240GW installed.

In the US renewables pull ahead of coal generation for the first time

More electricity from wind, solar and hydro

2020

Showing the continuing rise of renewable electricity generation in the US, it surges ahead of coal, according to 2020 figures released by the Energy Information Administration.  

World’s largest battery storage project comes online

Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility, California

2021

The size of 3 football fields and with a capacity of 300MW/1200MWh, Phase 1 becomes the world’s largest operational battery energy storage system. Another 100MW/400MWh is added in 2021.

Wind predicted to power 3.3 million new jobs over next 5 years

New analysis by the Global Wind Energy Council

2021

Nearly 1.2 million jobs have already been created from wind energy worldwide. GWEC forecasts 470MW more by 2025, generating 3.3 million sustainable, long-term jobs over 25-year project lifetimes.

Record year for global wind energy with 93GW added

53% increase since 2020 

2021

Today, there’s around 750GW of wind power capacity worldwide, avoiding over 1.1 billion tons of CO2 globally - equivalent to the annual emissions of South America. But we can do more!

COP26 takes place in Glasgow

The global United Nations summit about climate change outlined plans on how countries plan to tackle it.

2021

COP26 discussions included reversing deforestation, pledges to quit using coal and cut methane emissions plus how the energy transition supports decarbonisation.

Celebrating our past and inspiring our future

Hear stories from RES

2021