This book is full of surprises. Did you know, for example, that solar-powered engines have been around in one form or another for more than a century? Or that Abraham Lincoln was interested in wind power. Or that there are enough “hot rocks” in the earth’s crust to help generate more than enough electricity for the entire world?
Beyond containing many interesting facts and stories, Renewable also address issues at the heart of our energy economy. If the book has any one guiding principle or “thesis” it ‘s that for most people, most of the time, energy is invisible. And that this invisibility is a problem. The electricity we depend on for more or less everything we do seems more like magic than like an actual substance. The gas with which we fill our cars and trucks (and planes and boats, etc.) is there when we need it, conveniently ready to gush from the pump. In fact, the only time most people think at all about energy is when something goes wrong–a blackout–or when gas prices skyrocket. Otherwise, energy is something we don’t have to deal with or worry about.
Except that we do. Because how we use energy, and where energy comes from, has implications for everything from the long-term health of the planet to economic global stability. It’s beyond serious dispute that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change. Yet because we’re largely ignorant about how energy is made–and because climate change is something you can’t always see in real-time–we’re slow to act to change our energy production and consumption habits. It’s also a fact that eventually we’ll run out of easily obtainable fossil fuel. According to some researchers, global oil production has already peaked. According to others, there’s still plenty left to last us several decades. But although, oil, coal, and especially natural gas are still plentiful, they are finite resources. And so eventually, inevitable, we will be forced to turn to other, non-finite sources of power.
What will those sources be and how will we harness them? That’s what the book is about. Arranged in five “parts”–Grass, Sun, Wind, Earth, and Water–the chapters tell the stories of the most interesting and promising types of renewable energy: namely, biofuel, solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro. But unlike most books about alternative energy, Renewable is not obsessed with megawatts and tips for building home solar panels. Instead, I dig into the rich, surprisingly long histories of these technologies, bringing to life the pioneering scientists, inventors, and visionaries who blazed the way for solar, wind, hydro, and other forms of renewable power. I also analyze the current state of renewable technologies, including commentary from foremost experts.
The good news is that while renewable energy still has a way to go, we are at an important crossroads in the history of renewable technologies. Wind and solar are poised to make giant leaps and become major players in the global energy economy. Biofuels, geothermal, and hydro are not far behind. The possibilities are endless and enticing. Although there are never any guarantees in the volatile world of energy, it has become increasingly clear that renewable energy is the way of the future. This book provides an entertaining and informative guide to where renewable energy has been, where it is today, and where it’s going.