A detailed blueprint for a solar-powered, all-electric future.
In this bright treatise, Stayton outlines how humanity might transition from finite, carbon dioxide–emitting fossil fuels to permanent, pollution-free solar power by the end of this century. His key points are that people must curtail carbon emissions; that solar photovoltaic electricity can meet people’s needs better than alternatives can; and that the exponential growth of solar installations shows that the shift has already begun. The author has a master’s degree in physics, college teaching experience, and years of living off the grid. He expertly blends scientific research, historical context, personal experience, and visionary thinking in this book and relates it all in plain language. He has a gift for demystifying things, from horsepower and steam engines to gigawatts and thorium reactors. His examples are practical (“A joule is the energy needed to raise a three-quarter pound book by a foot, such as lifting a book to the next higher shelf”), and he uses concise, declarative sentences to make his points: “Every five days, the Sun delivers the energy equivalent of all the fossil fuel reserves in the world.” He also avoids polemics: “Ocean acidification is the smoking gun evidence that convicts fossil fuel emissions of harming the planet. You don’t need to believe in climate change to accept that fact.” But although many readers may believe that the facts, and logic, make a shift to solar power inevitable, Stayton’s timeline appears too optimistic, as it requires 20 percent annual growth in solar installations for decades as well as improvements in storage systems. Also shadowing his sunny scenario is a cloud of powerful interests that stand to lose billions of dollars if fossil fuels go unused. Stayton devotes only a short chapter to this opposition—confident that collective, individual choices will drive the transformation. Whatever the pace of solar adoption, however, Stayton does manage to clarify the feasibility of quitting fossil fuels. Whether readers add rooftop solar panels to their homes or just replace their incandescent bulbs after reading this book, they’ll better understand how energy works, how much humans use (and waste), and why an epochal change is coming.
An energy book that’s a pleasure to read and sure to win new