Zinc oxide (ZnO) is an earth abundant wide bandgap semiconductor of great interest in the recent years. ZnO has many unique properties, such as non-toxic, large direct bandgap, high exciton binding energy, high transparency in visible and infrared spectrum, large Seebeck coefficient, high thermal stability, high electron diffusivity, high electron mobility, and availability of various nanostructures, making it a promising material for many applications. The growth techniques of ZnO is reviewed in this work, including sputtering, PLD, MOCVD and MBE techniques, focusing on the crystalline quality, electrical and optical properties. The problem with p-type doping ZnO is also discussed, and the method to improve p-type doping efficiency is reviewed. This paper also summarizes the current state of art of ZnO in thermoelectric and photovoltaic applications, including the key parameters, different device structures, and future development.