This book is unbiased about solar electricity. It informs you about what solar electricity is good for and what it's not. It also correctly sets your expectations of what you can achieve, and the cost benefit.
It starts off explaining all the terminology you will encounter and differences between them, such as Solar Power, Solar Energy, Solar Heating, Grid-tied solar electric systems, Wind power, etc. To give you an example, here is the sort of information you get: Because a grid-tied solar electric system becomes part of the national grid, the system will switch off in the event of a power cut. It does this to stop any electricity flowing back into the grid - which could be fatal for engineers working on repairing the fault. The author also explains whether to grid-tie, or not to grid-tie.
As you may be designing and installing your own system, it covers in detail all the formulae and for calculating power, volts, current, resistance and watts.
It covers what kind of batteries to use, what controllers and inverters do.
As part of any design process you need to calculate the amount of solar energy available, surveying your site, calculating the amount of energy you need, sizing the solar electric system, component selection and costing. Once again, this book covers all the above in detail, from caravans to boats, from simple lighting to full on household fridges and TV's. It has tables of the amount of power required, the average hours of use and the watt hours energy of most common devices you would use solar electricity for. There is an appendix for this too covering a great many devices from laptops to fish tanks.
There is more to surveying your site than you think. I've learnt a great deal here. It covers in great detail about where to position your solar array, it covers roof mounting, ground mounting, pole mounting, the suns path, checking for obstacles, cabling, etc.
I didn't know this but there are many different types of solar panels. It explains what each of them are, what they cost and which is best. It also covers brands from BP to Sharp, and also includes information on second-hand solar panels.
I've mentioned before the book covers batteries and inverters, but there are excellent chapters on them covering how you should wire them, balancing the batteries, what brands to use, what power rating to use, and even what cables to use. There are clear diagrams on how not to wire your system and how to wire it correctly. Ie, if you put your earth on the wrong end of a series it shortens the life of the battery and means they end up out of balance. There are formulae for calculating the cable thickness you will need and covers where you should position your batteries.
Another chapter I found interesting was troubleshooting. It covers what the common faults are, too much load or maybe even insufficient power generation, etc. All the information is here.
Calculating solar energy can be tricky as it depends on where in the world you live, and what month it is. Well, there is a large appendix covering Latitude and sun height for USA (detailing all the states), UK (detailing all the major towns), Ireland. The author has supplied a website where you can obtain all of these charts and more on-line, which also include Canada and mainland Europe.
Another chapter (again quite large) covers the solar insolation values of USA, UK, etc. for every month of the year. You will need this information when designing your system.
This book also explains how to live off the national grid together.
The final "must have" is that the author has created a website that allows you put your project details in (devices, what voltage, what watts, hour of use), cable lengths, where you live in the world, tick what months you plan on using the system, how long you want the batteries to support you (battery holdover). It calculates this and provides you with an 11 page detailed report, including how much the estimated cost would be.
I actually contact the author (Mike Boxwell) about my own project which is how to cool a large conservatory during the day, and keep it warm at night. My house is open plan and the conservatory is part of my living space. It's boiling through the day and quite cold at night. I was thinking about powering the air-con from solar panels, but was scratching my head about the night time. Mike told me all about building a ground heat source instead. A large dug out area in the conservatory floor, filled with crushed glass, then covered back over with the flooring. A small £30 - £60 solar panel to drive a small fan which drives hot air from my conservatory into the crushed glass which stores up the heat. The crushed glass is cold during the day so it gives out cool air into the conservatory. At night, the fan stops as the solar panel stops generating electricity due to no sunlight. By this time the crushed glass is hot, so it gives this energy back into the conservatory keeping it lovely and warm. Mike Boxwell is a genius.
Honestly, this is a fabulous book with a wealth of information, real world examples, and detailed how-to's with diagrams so you can do it yourself.