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Thomas Edison: Champion of Renewable Energy

Thomas Edison, father of the electric light, saw the value of renewable energy

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Inventor Thomas Edison stands by his work bench with an electric light overhead.

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison in his laboratory.

National Archives

American inventor Thomas Edison often gets a bad rap from environmentalists. After all, he invented those incandescent light bulbs we’re all so busy replacing with more efficient models, not to mention a whole slew of power-thirsty machines and appliances—from the phonograph to the motion picture camera.

Almost single-handedly, it seems, Edison made modern civilization dependent on electricity—and the natural resources required to generate it.

Edison Experimented with Renewable Energy
But Edison was also a pioneer in renewable energy and green technology. He experimented with home-based wind turbines to generate electricity and provide homeowners with an independent source of power, and he teamed up with his friend Henry Ford to develop an electric car that would run on rechargeable batteries.

Most of all, Edison’s keen mind and insatiable curiosity kept him thinking and experimenting throughout his long life—and renewable energy was one of his favorite topics.

Edison Favored Renewable Energy Over Fossil Fuels
Edison knew that fossil fuels such as oil and coal wouldn’t last forever, and he saw the virtually untapped potential of renewable energy sources—such as wind power and solar power—that could be harnessed and put to work for the benefit of mankind.

In 1931, the same year he died, Edison told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

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