- Paperback: 346 pages
- Publisher: Sandstone Publishing (22 April 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 099047920X
- ISBN-13: 978-0990479208
- Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 1.8 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,342,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Power Shift Paperback – 22 Apr 2015
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Top customer reviews
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As strong a message as it is, it is lost a bit in the lengthy prose that details the current state of power generation. I felt when reading that the style reminded me of when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth Bennett. He goes on and on about his general interest in the matter of marriage and then gets on his knee to offer his love.
You get such a detailed overview of every fossil energy form that it was at times hard to remember this was a book about Solar Power. I appreciate the arguments in favor and believe there is much to be said for the main premise. The success of this option will lay with being able to talk people into spending more now to save later. That is a very hard nut to crack in the 21st century.
I think the book might have ended better with a traditional conclusion. A touch wordy, very well researched and thorough. If you ever have any questions about mankind and the future of power generation I recommend you read this book first.
Diaclaimer: I received a copy from the author in the hopes I'd review it.
My Rating: 4 stars
Let's get into that important job first. The book is about the need to move to solar energy, driven by the impact of manmade climate change. The most impressive thing about Power Shift is that it persuaded me that we should produce significantly more of our energy from solar. I've got some problems with Robert Stayton's assertion that all our energy could come from solar for a couple of reasons. Most of his information is sweeping and global, but I think really it is US-based, assumed to apply globally. It would be much harder to get all of the UK's energy from solar than the US quite simply because we don't have frequent enough sunny days. It is also a little cherry-picking, taking pessimistic views of the alternatives and optimistic on solar. While I think we could produce a good percentage of UK energy from solar given sufficient storage, we would also need backup nuclear to fill in gaps and, most importantly to deal with situations Stayton doesn't cover, like Krakatoa-like incidents which would drastically reduce solar availability for a couple of years at a time.
However, Stayton is indubitably right in saying that solar is the obvious source and that we should be putting in far more effort both in collection and in storage technologies to iron out the daily and seasonal variation in solar capacity. Yes, we will probably need to work on carbon capture and storage to get us through to a mainly solar economy (plus the nuclear backup he doesn't like), but solar should be seen as far more significant than it currently is. And this book makes the case so strongly that if you read it, you may well be persuaded of this idea.
Now, though, the less encouraging side. I don't think anyone who isn't already convinced will read the book, because the only sensible way to persuade someone is to start with a balanced view and work towards the conclusion, where the book clearly starts from a specific viewpoint, obvious even in its subtitle. It also suffers from one of the oldest problems in publishing - the significant content is really only about three magazine articles, expanded to fill a book. You could quite easily get all the important message across in articles covering climate change, energy options and how to implement solar. The result is a lot of repetition and labouring of the point. As an example, Stayton lists out 20 'positives for solar PV [photovoltaic - i.e. solar panels generating electricity]', then proceeds to slowly explain each of these points separately. We really don't need much expansion on, for instance, 'Solar PV does not pollute our air,' but we get nearly a page.
This kind of heavy handedness is particular obvious in spending around 60 pages telling us very obvious background on how human energy use has gone from fire to modern consumption. It's neither very interesting nor highly relevant to the point of the book. Another problem is the way that the author pushes the bottom-up approach, building his argument on his own position where he generates 90% of his energy from solar panels on his house. The fact is, the vast majority of people in the UK could not do this, both in terms of the relatively tiny amount of energy generated over the darker half of the year and also because many UK homes simply aren't suitable to stick solar on the roof. We tend to have much smaller houses than in the US - and, for instance, though my roof is technically big enough, it's not south-facing, which immediately renders it pretty much useless for generation. By giving us a model that just doesn't work for most of us, Stayton hinders rather than helps the message.
While Stayton's countrymen in the US are still arguing in large numbers that manmade climate change doesn't exist, the fact is that the arguments of this book are likely to be ignored. Which is a shame, because as I noted, it has genuinely persuaded me that we ought to make solar our biggest source, provided we put enough effort into developing more efficient energy storage mechanisms. There's a lot to interest anyone serious about our energy impact on the planet here, provided you are tolerant of the book's lack of conciseness. So it's a qualified cheer for this vision of a solar future.
'Our current dilemma', he explains, 'is the 100 million tons of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere each day.' Subsequently, Stayton outlines why only 20-40% of global fossil fuel carbon emissions is suitable for capture, why carbon capture and storage systems (CCs) is risky for future generations, and why the use of radioactive materials as a basis for nuclear energy is especially dangerous. Stayton also relates the reasons that undeveloped Thorium-fueled reactors make nuclear energy unfeasible. He does a fine job scientifically explaining light energy. Further, he not only lays out a vision for future solar homes but solar businesses and solar industries.
In his book, Power Shift - From Fossil Energy to Dynamic Solar Power , Stayton explains what is needed to switch to a 100% solar-based economy. Lastly, he provides 20 benefits of solar PV such as 1) being a secure energy 2) being a solid investment for business, and 3) not requiring any dedicated land.
I recommend this book for anyone with a vision for energy-efficiency.
My favorite quote: "Light energy is pure energy, free of matter. That's why solar energy does not pollute.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
What I really like about this book is the way Stayton logically and methodically examines the history of energy and the pros and cons associated with each form. He boils down difficult concepts into easily digestible content. At the end of the book you have no choice but to agree with his assertion that solar energy is our only long term viable option. Before reading his book, I made a purely economical decision to install roof top solar on my house. Global warming did not induce me to make the change, but dollars and cents did. In my estimation, this is what will make solar a reality. With solar prices continuing to fall and the efficiency of solar panels continuing to increase, the tipping point has been reached and I expect to see more and more people make a personal economic decision in favor of solar.
The next big thing will be storage. I agree with Stayton's premise that utility companies will become power storage and distribution companies, not power generation companies. Wind and solar can produce excess capacity mid-day, but we need large scale storage to reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuels from our energy mix. The most difficult challenge is providing people an economical and practical alternative to a gasoline powered car. Tesla is blazing the trail here, but until I can replace my SUV with a full size electric vehicle that can go 300+ miles between charges and there is an array of available quick charging stations, I will stick to my gas guzzler.
I highly recommend this book. On three separate occasions, I have used the knowledge gained from this book to engage people in thoughtful conversation on the topic of energy and why solar is our only long term ticket.
Don't let the seemingly science-heavy tech talk scare you away from this all-too-important discussion. Stayton's science know-how educates instead of alienating less tech-savvy readers, which is paramount to the book's success since the subject matter pertains to every single living creature on earth.
Stayton poignantly explains how we got where we are today, what's stopped us from making the changes we need to make and how we can practically usher in this exciting new (though really it's not remotely new) technology. It's certainly not something that can happen overnight, but it is something that can start happening today with your help. Solar energy is increasingly cost-effective, years beyond necessary and the most abundant, reliable energy source we've had or will ever have. With a shift to solar, we won't have to worry about another sweeping energy change until we move to Mars.
It's chock full of quirky, insightful, entertaining nuggets of dinner party conversation fodder reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell, par example:
* The first car built by Ferdinand Porsche was electric (1898).
* The average US city holds three days' worth of food on grocery shelves.
* Replacing every US farm tractor in use today with horses would require 250M horses.
This book will literally change your life, leaving you inspired, educated and armed to find easy, short term solutions plus longterm necessary solutions preserving the benefits we reap from modern technology without compromising future generations' quality of life.
The first part of the book sets the premise for his conclusions. You have to be educated to "energy eyes" when you look at your world. Once you put on these spectacles you see energy in a totally different light. ( No pun intended.) This really illuminated the need to switch from "heat" engines and machines with all their problems, to electric engines and machines with all their benefits. And guess what - you can power the later with solar!!!
Thought provoking book backed up with science and studies not fear tactics. Well done.
Jon Dittrich. Knoxville, Tennessee
Anyone involved in the climate debate or the impact of fossil fuel use on the climate should read this book. Our educators should read this book. In fact, I would recommend everybody read this book.
Don't think that because Stayton provides a clear and concise explanation of the science and evolution of energy use by humans that this book will not inform the scientific community. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a rich history of study in the physical sciences, and a lifelong career as a computer scientist yet every page of this book managed to inform me in ways I had not previously connected.
This may be the most important book of our time. Read it.