Sun Power: How Energy from the Sun Is Changing Lives Around the World, Empowering America, and Saving the Planet

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9780765333773: Sun Power: How Energy from the Sun Is Changing Lives Around the World, Empowering America, and Saving the Planet

America is on the brink of a green energy revolution that can save the planet, and increase peace and prosperity, by harnessing the unlimited solar power. After decades of promise, the technology for alternative energy solutions now exists to replace our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels with cheap, clean solar energy.

Neville Williams has been on the leading edge of this revolution for decades and knows from firsthand experience how sun power can transform lives and communities for the better. He has traveled the globe bringing solar-generated electricity to struggling communities throughout Asia, Africa, India, and the developing world. From isolated villages high in the mountains of Nepal to remote settlements in South Africa, Williams has worked to bring sun power to even the most off-the-grid reaches of the planet. He has brought that knowledge and experience back to America where he founded one of the country's fastest growing solar companies.

If millions of poor families in the Third World can get their power from the sun, why can't Americans concerned with their rising power bills, dependence on foreign oil, and carbon footprints do the same?

The answer is that sun power is here, it works, and can light up a new era of economic and environmental security―if we have the will to seize this historic opportunity. This book is not about predictions or promises. It's about what's happening now, all over the world, and what still needs to done.

Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.

About the Author:

NEVILLE WILLIAMS is a solar power pioneer, advocate, and entrepreneur. He founded a highly successful non-profit organization to bring sun power to unelectrified peoples in developing countries and has launched companies all over the world to sell and install solarelectric systems. Williams first became involved with solar power during the Carter Administration as a consultant to the US Department of Energy. Williams lives in Naples, Florida.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

SOLAR REVOLUTION? 1979

"Why aren’t we using solar energy here in America?" I have been asked whenever I’ve spoken about solar electricity in the developing world, where it is the only source of power for millions of people with no access to electricity. The answer I gave from 1990 to 2005 was simple: "Because we already have electricity and solar is still expensive."

That answer is different today. We are using solar, as this book explains, but not as much as we could be. Whether you know it or not, we will have a solar-powered future, if you include all renewable energy sources that claim the sun as their progenitor. Everyone knows the sun will be with us for a very long time, while fossil fuels are on the way out, so we will use solar energy because we, as planetary citizens, have no choice.

It has been forty years since Germany’s rocket engineer and America’s space pioneer Wernher von Braun said in Paris at the world’s first global solar conference, titled The Sun in the Service of Mankind, "I believe we are at the dawn of a new age, one which might be called ‘the solar age.’"

This is a book for doers and dreamers. It is a personal narrative about real people doing real things, not a science text, a policy treatise, or an academic analysis of energy, technology, or political issues. It is not a technical or "how to" handbook. I’m not going to pronounce on what we "must do" or "should do" but will explain what people are doing around the world and in the United States. You will meet some of the people among the millions who have chosen to put the sun at their service, from those in villages in Africa to suburban America, from rural China to Google’s campus, from thousands of industrial rooftops to America’s huge solar farms.

Sun Power is a practical manifesto on how we can, and are, changing the world with solar photovoltaics, an unappealing word for an elegant technology. Solar photovoltaics (PV) has been handicapped by this name from the beginning. I prefer "solarelectric" (like "hydroelectric," one word) to describe solar power generated by photovoltaic technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity. "Solar power" is the common term today, "PV" for short. I once heard a government official at the dedication of the University of Maryland’s solar-powered race car call it "photogalactic." Maybe it’s more galactic than voltaic, since the technology does seem out of this world.

Solar energy, the world’s fastest-growing industry, is generally a boring subject. But getting and using free energy from the sun is exciting and, if humanity is to survive, ultimately necessary. The first part of the book is about bringing solar power to people who have no access to electricity. The second part is about how America is using solar power here at home and how we are able to save money while saving the planet and how America is catching up with Europe, where the solar revolution took off at the dawn of the new millennium.

Sun Power will introduce you to people who never benefited from the modern age, who never had electricity, but who have been the solar power pioneers who were the first to light their homes with the technology that we will all be using in the future. You will learn about a nonprofit promoter of solar in more than a dozen developing countries and about its spin-off, a commercial venture that has sold and installed over 150,000 solarelectric systems in India. Finally, the book tells the story of my last solar adventure as a "serial entrepreneur" and how hundreds of American entrepreneurial start-ups are "saving the world one rooftop at a time." And one "solar farm," "solar garden," and multimegawatt solar power plant at a time. You will read about the enormous opportunities in solar and how dozens of global corporations have entered the clean energy business.

The book reflects the need to focus on hope, a commodity that seems in increasingly short supply these days as we are faced with "resource wars" and the "clash of civilizations." The lethal mix of oil, Islam, and Israel renders the world a more unstable and frightening place than it has ever been. The hope is found in the delight expressed in a child’s eyes as she flips a light switch in her family’s wattle-and-daub home and, for the first time, watches an electric light come on. The hope is represented by the fact that this family was able to purchase their solarelectric installation on credit and that for the first time ever their world did not go dark at 6:00 P.M., as it does year-round in the equatorial latitudes. The hope is in their empowerment, and ours.

Clean energy solutions are already working in a bigger way for the whole of humanity than I could ever have imagined ten years ago. While the West fights its wars over oil, humble farmers in developing countries, along with American and European homeowners and thousands of companies and hundreds of utilities worldwide, are putting the solar solution to work. There is hope in knowing that the solar power business is growing at 80 percent a year, providing untold opportunities for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

You don’t need to know or care about how this technology works, any more than you need to understand the principles of a liquid crystal display or LED screen to turn on and watch a television. You needn’t be able to tell photons from electrons to appreciate the attraction of solar energy. It does not take technical knowledge to be a sun worshipper. You do need to know, if you haven’t heard already, that enough energy from the sun falls on the earth in fifteen minutes to power the world for a year.

For the history of solar power and a layman’s discussion of technology, I refer the reader to Appendix 1, "Solar Tech Simplified."

A portion of this book first appeared in 2005 under the title Chasing the Sun: Solar Adventures Around the World. It told the story of how a small group of "unrealistic" and perhaps "unreasonable" activists and entrepreneurs turned their vision into the reality of a half million people getting their household energy from the sun. At the time it begged the question, "If poor people in the developing world can afford to use solar electricity, why can’t we?" That is our challenge.

* * *

It seems like a dream now, the halcyon days of the 1950s, when I was growing up during a time of innocence in a world full of promise, without cynicism or irony. The bright future lay before me, around the corner, capturing my imagination. There were no economic worries in the air of postwar America, no shortages of anything. To a high school student in a small Ohio town, whose father’s metallurgical engineering job paid for a large white house on three acres, a new ’57 Chevy, and a second car for his mother, who didn’t need to work, it was the best of times.

I was born in 1943, at the beginning of the baby boom, when hundreds of thousands of soldiers left their wives (soon-to-be mothers) behind as they shipped off to war. The cultural icons of the boomer generation—among them, Bob Dylan (born 1941), Paul McCartney (1942), Mick Jagger (1943), and Jim Morrison (1943)—defined the zeitgeist as one of fun fun fun, wild rebellion, and indignant protest. None of us was to have a normal life.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned we’d won World War II by dropping two nuclear bombs on Japanese industrial cities, obliterating them and some two hundred thousand of their inhabitants. By this time, Russia had the bomb as well. I still remember bicycling six miles to town to buy an issue of Mad magazine, the cover of which showed planet Earth with big chunks blown out of it as Russia and the United States lobbed ever-larger intercontinental ballistic missiles back and forth at each other. Ha ha.

However, the threat of nuclear missiles was offset by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program, which pumped billions of government dollars into building the first nuclear power plants. Soon, it was said, we would have power "too cheap to meter." You just needed a little uranium 235 and some plutonium and you’d have all the power you’d ever need, for ever and ever.

This seemed too good to be true, even to a tenth grader, so I wrote to the Atoms for Peace program in Washington, and soon a large package of technical materials arrived in our mailbox. I studied them carefully. My father helped me with the technical terms and descriptions, and soon I understood how nuclear energy was produced. Amazing! Neat!

What could be better than this?

I decided to produce a detailed, comprehensive, schematic drawing of exactly how a nuclear power plant worked for my high school science project. I mounted the drawing on a big wooden board, carted it off to school, and explained to the science teacher all about critical mass and controlled reaction and heat transfer to make steam for generators, ultimately producing electricity.

It was many years before I learned that it would be better to use photons from the sun to produce electrical energy. It would be every bit as clean as nuclear power, without the risk of contaminating our cities for twenty-five thousand years if something went wrong (and something will always go wrong, some day); it would eventually prove to be cheaper than nuclear energy, which became so costly that it nearly bankrupted several U.S. utilities that invested too heavily in it. Later, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima nailed the nuclear coffin shut, perhaps for good. That leaves the sun as the natural source for electricity.

* * *

Despite this early interest in electricity production, I did not get a job in the power industry, nor did I study science, engineering, technology, or business. None of my father’s astonishing abilities in mechanics, science, and engineering rubbed off on me. I decided to become a writer and a journalist; studied history, English, and poli-sci; and set out after college to cover the story of my generation: Vietnam. I decided to "learn by doing." I learned to write about war by going out to see it and watching contemporaries die in it, including one of my best high school friends, drafted into the infantry right after he returned from serving his country for two years in the Peace Corps. (I too was drafted, but that’s not a subject for this book.)

The Vietnam War alienated a generation, and many of us "dropped out" of mainstream society. I chose the freelance writer’s life in a Colorado mountain town, a place to recover from the sixties and try to become whole again. Meanwhile, the Middle East soon replaced Vietnam as a focus of our national attention. Today, it is all we think about. Radical Islam, Muslim Iran, and the Arab revolt seem to control our lives and our future.

After the 1973 oil embargo caused by the Middle Eastern members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), energy became dinner-table conversation. Soon thereafter—in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s resignation, and the United States’s hightailing it out of Vietnam at long last, losing our first war—the nuclear engineer and submarine officer (and Georgia governor) Jimmy Carter was elected to preside over a very depressed United States, wearing his cardigan and telling us to turn down our thermostats to save energy.

President Carter created a new government agency, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and a new cabinet post. The DOE included a division dealing exclusively with energy conservation and solar energy.

Tom Tatum was one of Carter’s bright young campaign operatives, a Georgia native and Vanderbilt University law graduate who earned his political bona fides managing Maynard Jackson’s campaign to become the first black mayor of Atlanta. Carter wanted to keep a close watch on his new pet projects, the DOE and his energy policy, so he brought Tom to Washington and offered him a special assignment at the DOE’s Office of Energy Conservation and Solar Energy (which was soon known as Conservation and Solar).

I had first met Tom in the aforementioned Colorado mountain town, where he had recently bought a ski condo. A former antiwar activist and mutual friend, Sam Brown, who was then working for Carter in Washington, had told Tom to look me up. We met at the local saloon, where we talked serious politics amid the cowboys and ski bums, trying to hear each other over Willie Nelson on the jukebox. Scotch, our drug of choice, lubricated our late-night conversations about … energy! Tom said he needed help in Washington at the new Department of Energy to launch "the solar revolution."

The what?

I was rested from my antiwar activism and ready for a good fight, and a revolution sounded perfect. So, when Tom, back in Washington, called to ask me to come to D.C. immediately to help him promote solar and energy conservation at the highest levels of the U.S. government, I said sure. I came down from the mountain, spent part of 1979 in Washington at the DOE, and returned to D.C. for the summer of 1980, still one of the hottest on record. Temperatures hovered at 86 degrees indoors because President Carter had ordered all the government thermostats set at 80 to save energy. And you couldn’t open the windows.

Despite the heat, we had not heard of global warming. That would come later. What we were concerned about, talking late into the night over our Dewar’s at the Hawk and Dove on Capitol Hill, was energy security. Carter had come to power just after the United States had passed "peak oil," the point at which the country began to extract its oil reserves faster than it could find new oil deposits. The United States was no longer self-sufficient in the oil department, and we began to import more and more crude oil—over 50 percent of our daily needs—from the OPEC countries that had caused the long gas lines in 1973 and who were now (1979) raising prices to over thirty dollars a barrel. In July 1979, President Carter addressed the country and said, "Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite the nation."

The issue quickly became: How could the United States wean itself off dependence on foreign oil? Especially oil from the unstable Middle East?

Tom and I thought we knew. We read S. David Freeman’s Energy: The New Era. He was a guru to us. Carter had appointed Freeman to head the Tennessee Valley Authority, where Freeman was closing down three nuclear reactors while preaching energy independence, energy efficiency, and solar energy. (David and I later crossed paths in a remarkable if star-crossed way, as I will explain later.) Denis Hayes, the founder (with Senator Gaylord Nelson) of Earth Day in 1970, was writing about "renewable energy" (a new phrase for me)—and the brilliant young Amory Lovins was agitating for a "soft energy path" and for "energy conservation," making his views known at our office in the DOE. Tom directly advised the president about these new policy ideas.

I moved into my office next to the assistant secretary for solar energy and energy conservation at DOE and began writing speeches and developing policy briefs. I had a U.S.-government-issue manual typewriter, sin...

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Descrizione libro FORGE, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. America is on the brink of a green energy revolution that can save the planet, and increase peace and prosperity, by harnessing the unlimited solar power. After decades of promise, the technology for alternative energy solutions now exists to replace our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels with cheap, clean solar energy. Neville Williams has been on the leading edge of this revolution for decades and knows from firsthand experience how sun power can transform lives and communities for the better. He has traveled the globe bringing solar-generated electricity to struggling communities throughout Asia, Africa, India, and the developing world. From isolated villages high in the mountains of Nepal to remote settlements in South Africa, Williams has worked to bring sun power to even the most off-the-grid reaches of the planet. He has brought that knowledge and experience back to America where he founded one of the country s fastest growing solar companies. If millions of poor families in the Third World can get their power from the sun, why can t Americans concerned with their rising power bills, dependence on foreign oil, and carbon footprints do the same? The answer is that sun power is here, it works, and can light up a new era of economic and environmental security--if we have the will to seize this historic opportunity. This book is not about predictions or promises. It s about what s happening now, all over the world, and what still needs to done. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780765333773

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Descrizione libro FORGE, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. America is on the brink of a green energy revolution that can save the planet, and increase peace and prosperity, by harnessing the unlimited solar power. After decades of promise, the technology for alternative energy solutions now exists to replace our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels with cheap, clean solar energy. Neville Williams has been on the leading edge of this revolution for decades and knows from firsthand experience how sun power can transform lives and communities for the better. He has traveled the globe bringing solar-generated electricity to struggling communities throughout Asia, Africa, India, and the developing world. From isolated villages high in the mountains of Nepal to remote settlements in South Africa, Williams has worked to bring sun power to even the most off-the-grid reaches of the planet. He has brought that knowledge and experience back to America where he founded one of the country s fastest growing solar companies. If millions of poor families in the Third World can get their power from the sun, why can t Americans concerned with their rising power bills, dependence on foreign oil, and carbon footprints do the same? The answer is that sun power is here, it works, and can light up a new era of economic and environmental security--if we have the will to seize this historic opportunity. This book is not about predictions or promises. It s about what s happening now, all over the world, and what still needs to done. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780765333773

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