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HARNESS THE SUN by Philip Warburg


America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future

by Philip Warburg

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8070-3376-0
Publisher: Beacon Press

For the future of green energy, the forecast is sunny. That’s the message in this manual on the present state of solar energy.

Warburg (Harvest the Wind: America's Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Stability, 2012), a former director of the Conservation Law Foundation, has installed a solar array atop his home in Massachusetts. Direct current is converted to alternating current, and his photovoltaic panels supply three-quarters of the electricity that runs the family household and keeps their hybrid car charged. Though some methods of acquiring electricity use the heat of the sun, the rooftop PV modules gather light, not heat. Warburg travels widely to gather facts and figures for his persuasive brief in support of solar power. Many communities are organizing for its advent. Sunlight may be harvested and stored for later use, and in support of solar energy, installations may qualify for federal and state grants, subsidies, and credits. Large corporations, including Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, Apple, and Google, are investing in solar power, and major utilities are making serious financial commitments. However, there are problems, which Warburg candidly explains. Panels, now mostly made in China, may be conveniently installed on residences or parking lots, but major utility PV systems require hardy hardware and lots of space. Brownfields must be remediated before conversion to solar use, and greenfields have environmental defenders. Deserts, seemingly a good place for a large installation, harbor a wide variety of fauna, which need protection, and Navajo and Hopi tribal lands have conflicting claims. Noting that the grid will still be important in the distribution of energy, Warburg now sees solar power as integral to our future energy system. Technology improves exponentially, the legislative atmosphere gets better, and investors’ expected financial returns are becoming noteworthy.

A clear and persuasive report that is not so much electrifying as smoothly edifying.