Renewables Are Ready: People Creating Renewable Energy Solutions by Nancy Cole and P.J. Skerrett for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, VT, 1995.
This book is not new, but unfortunately the concept is new to much of the public, and it seems totally foreign to the U.S. government. If we spent only a fraction of what we spend for war on supporting the development of renewable energy, we could get a good start on weaning ourselves off the oil economy.
This book is amazingly comprehensive, and very practical. It is also filled with real examples, where renewable energy is in place and making a difference in peoples lives. Renewables are Ready is a self-help book for both individuals and communities who want to develop renewable energy projects.
The Union of Concerned Scientists stated in 1995 that they believe that technologies for harvesting renewable energyincluding photovoltaics, solar heating devices, wind and hydroelectric turbines, and biomass generatorsare already affordable, effective, and reliable enough to be used on a huge scale in the United States. The proof is in the many, many renewable projects now in operation, of which this book highlights a few.
As the UCS reminds us, it has always been committed individuals, organized together, who have stimulated great social movements in this country. And this is what we need nowa mass movement in support of renewable energy.
This movement is especially important now, as the Bush Administration relaxes pollution controls, and tears down the Clean Air Act.
Renewables are Ready discusses
Working in partnership with utilities.
Building niche markets, e.g. using photovoltaics to power a home that is far from power lines.
Seeking creative financing.
Changing the energy rules, such as changing building codes. This requires changing attitudes.
Educating by example. Many potential renewable consumers believe that renewable energy is inadequate to handle the countrys needs. Wrong. Perhaps the biggest need is to educate consumers, and create a climate which can welcome the use of renewable energy.
Many inspiring and workable examples are presented, and brought alive with photos. Costs, comparative costs, and advantages and disadvantages of each arrangement are stated honestly.
Photovoltaics can meet the needs of many. A direct solar radiation isolight map shows that over a third of continental United States receives as much or more sunlight than does southern California, where most of the solar development is occurring. Even the foggy city of San Francisco is finding it practical to switch to solar energy after the power blackouts of 2001.
Portland, OR has solar access laws which ensure a steady stream of sunlight for people who invest in solar technology. So do 16 states.
Perusing this book is apt to make you want to run out and talk about renewables, perhaps to use them yourself, surely to bring up possibilities at Council and Planning meetings. It is chock full of ideas, ideas which are working for people and communities just like us and ours, ideas which enhance living. It seems amazing, especially given the current energy problems, that these eminently practical ideas have not caught on more widely with the American public.
To read this book is to fuel the faith that we can get out of the oil trap.