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Direct Use of the Sun's Energy Paperback – 4 Sept. 2009
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Top international reviews
High tech? Yes.
Space exploration? Yes.
Absurd subsidies? Yes.
Market place? Never tried it.
How could Daniels go from managing a division of the Manhattan A-bomb project in 1944 to risking sunstroke in 1964 building a solar still on a beach of the Galapagos Islands? This when he was 75. Farrington tried everything, did his damnedest. After the A-bomb work the Atomic Energy Commission decided their budget was better spent on weapons than building what they had promised, a "Daniels pile", used for peaceful atomic generation of electricity. Farrington was discouraged but remained faithful to what he had learned from chemistry and atomic power. Man needed to go beyond burning things. He turned to "the poor man's nuclear reactor ", the sun. One of Daniels' great strengths was avoiding one-sided partisanship, either for huge projects, which he well understood, or the nitty-gritty of the Galapagos beach. He plunged into both. Could he do this in 2013? Yes, of course and so must we. The appeal of the book and its author is his clarity and generosity. It is written to explain, not impress. This reader is glad to tag along even if many chapters have been swallowed whole by glorious success in other chapters.
We Americans endlessly study Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. Solar people can study Daniels for the same reasons. His character exceeds any career. The style of Direct Use of the Sun's Energy gives us a hint and much more is said in his wife Olive's biography of our "Solar Prophet."
There are tentative chapters on selective surfaces and photovoltaic panels, two subjects that have exploded since Daniels' death in 1972. Who could have predicted that these subjects would devour so many limitations of solar energy.
I think Farrington Daniels guessed this might happen but was too humble to make grand projections about what he ended devoting his life to. How could anyone grasp what has happened? The PV panels, which even at 1964 prices Daniels found promising, now cost not ten times less but one thousand times less. This success, along with that of selective surfaces which absorb the sun's short wave lengths but don't emit in the infrared, have changed everything. How can such be possible? Reading the papers of Harry Tabor, the English born Israeli scientist who Daniels mentions repeatedly, tells us much.
It is dismaying to consider how many topics he brings up may end. Will we no longer have the beautiful solar cookers that both Daniels and Tabor built? Will these advance (degrade) to PV panels plugged into hot plates? Will the classic solar still be another PV panel wired to a reverse osmosis pump? Will Harold Hays' work be replaced by PV panels and heat pumps?
Do photovoltaics loom like some giant extraterrestrial corporation planning to buy out photosynthesis and other nonelectric uses of the sun? Will everything be replaced by electricity? Will we see the end of flowers and butterflies?