There’s a growing demand for greener, safer renewable energy sources. Sun, wind, water, biomass, waves and tides, and the heat of the soil, all provide alternatives to non-renewable energy.

The following collection showcases some of the most amazing renewable energy projects and prototypes from the past few decades, including quite a few you’ve probably never heard of before.


Located in the Mojave Desert 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is an operational solar thermal power project. The facility deploys 173,500 heliostat mirrors spread over 3,500 acres, focusing solar energy on boilers located atop three solar power towers. The project—constructed by Bechtel and owned by NRG Solar, Google, and BrightSource Energy—is currently the largest solar thermal plant in operation in the world.

Photo: Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images for Bechtel/BrightSource Energy


Here’s an aerial view of the solar plant of Ouarzazate, in central Morocco. The world’s biggest solar plant using photovoltaics (PV), it takes advantage of the Sahara sunshine.

Photo: Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP

AGL’s Docklands office

Solar panels are seen on the rooftop at AGL Energy’s Docklands office, in Melbourne, Australia. The rooftop solar system covers 20,000 square meters and generates an estimated 110,000 kWh of electricity a year.

Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Vegas sunshine

This is the 102-acre, 15-megawatt Solar Array II Generating Station at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Coupled with the 13.2-megawatt Nellis Solar Star project completed in 2007, Nellis has the largest solar photovoltaic system in the Department of Defense.

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Photovoltaic plattenbau

Photovoltaic cells cover the 426 square meters on the southern facade of an apartment in Berlin, Germany. The photovoltaic cells replace the conventional facade slabs and produce around 25.000 kWh of solar-generated electricity a year, which is fed into the public grid and then set off against the energy consumption of the twin towers.

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images


The PS10 solar power plant at Sanlucar la Mayor outside Seville, Spain, was the first commercial solar tower in the world, built by the Spanish company Solucar (Abengoa). It can provide electricity for up to 6,000 homes.

Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Small family hydropower

The Schneider family (founders of Natel Energy) installed a new small hydropower plant on an existing, previously unpowered irrigation canal in Madras, Oregon. The plant produces electricity by the Schneider Linear Hydro Engine, and this first-of-its-kind project was later purchased by Apple Inc. to help power one of its data centers.

Photo: Natel Energy

ICE geothermal power plant

The cooling towers for a geothermal power plant run by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for more than 80 days straight in 2015, with the use of hydroelectric power plants and a combination of wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Onshore wind farms

In 2015, the wind industry installed more electricity-generating capacity than any other energy source in America. The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm (below) is one of three major wind farms in California, and consists of more than 3,000 wind turbines.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Offshore wind farms

Europe is the world’s leader in building wind farms close to its shores. The London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm, and it started operating on April 8, 2013, about 12 miles off the coast of Kent and Essex, England. It has a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts (MW) provided by 175 turbines, enough to supply up to 500,000 homes.

Photo: London Array

Photo: NASA Earth Observatory


The AK-1000 is one of the largest tidal energy turbines in the world. It is 73 feet tall, weighs 130 tons, and is being tested off the shores of Orkney, Scotland. Once completed, the MeyGen project–the world’s largest tidal stream project–is expected to deliver up to 398 megawatts of power, enough energy to power 200,000 homes or around half of Scotland.

Photo: Atlantis Resources Corporation

Heat from the deep

Geothermal energy plants tap deep underground heat, such as the Salton Sea Power Station in Calipatria, California, located on the southern end of the San Andreas Fault.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Lava love

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station (NGPS) is the second largest geothermal power station in Iceland, located near Thingvellir and the Hengill Volcano.

Photo: Gretar Ívarsson/Wikimedia Commons

The Krafla Power Station is a 60-megawatt (MW) geothermal power station located near the Krafla Volcano in Iceland, drawing heat from more than 30 boreholes.

Photo: Ásgeir Eggertsson/Wikimedia Commons

Energy from sewage

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented the pilot project, which went into operation in 2014, together with Microsoft and FuelCell Energy.

Photo: Siemens

Pelamis Wave Energy Converter

Developed by the Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power, the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter is a technology that uses the motion of ocean surface waves to create electricity. The snake-like machine is made up of connected sections which flex and bend as waves pass, and the motion generates electricity.

Photo: Pelamis Wave Power


Ocean Renewable Power Company’s TidGen Power System is designed to generate emission-free electricity at tidal and deep river sites. The four-turbine unit is secured to the ocean floor using either a fixed bottom support frame or a buoyant tensioned mooring system, determined by actual site conditions.

Photo: Ocean Renewable Power Company


SeaGen is the world’s first commercial power plant to generate electricity from tidal energy. Commissioned in 2008, the plant is located in a strait in the harbor Strangford Lough, in the Irish Sea, and can provide around 1,500 households with electricity. This power is generated by two large underwater rotors, driven by strong water currents for up to 20 hours a day at high and low tide.

Photo: Siemens


Azura is a wave power device currently being tested at the US Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii. Unlike other wave energy technologies, Azura extracts energy from both the vertical and horizontal motion of the wave, and can generate 20 kilowatts of power.

Photo: AzuraWave


These are the Four WindSide WS-4B vertical-axis wind turbines with helical Savonius rotor, located at the Da Jinshan Radar Station, China. The 4B is suited for multi-unit installations in heavy wind environments, in remote locations or offshore where a moderate-level of electrical output is required.

Photo: WindSide/ArchiExpo

Egg-beaters of a new era

Darrieus-type vertical axis wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm, Diablo Range in Northern California, which is one of the earliest wind farms in the US. The wind farm is composed of almost 5,000 relatively small wind turbines of various types.

Photo: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

The year of the corkscrew

This compact wind turbine was designed by Cleveland State University for the Cleveland Indians, and was generating electricity atop Progressive Field from 2012 to 2013.

Photo: Amy Sancetta/AP

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP

Top photo: Figures from Anthony Gormley’s art installation ‘Another Place’ stand in front of the turbines of the new Burbo Bank off shore wind farm in the mouth of the River Mersey (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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