I was recommended this book while being slaughtered in an argument about climate change and renewable energy. I was expounding the ‘green new deal’ idea, where the state could invest in wind power and other renewables while the recession is on and unemployment high. My opponent responded that wind power was not sufficient to meet our needs. Now, I’d heard it said that meeting our energy requirements with wind power would require covering most of the British Isles in wind generators, but this nay-saying had been shoved into the back of my mind. However, I had no figures to defend my position with, so the discussion moved on to other things.
This book is about finding a sustainable energy plan that adds up. Resource by resource, and energy use by energy use, you are led through clear and fairly simple calculations to find how large each component is, with the aim of building up a renewable energy ‘stack’ of 125kWh per day per person (which is the current UK consumption that the book uses). Ballpark figures of feasible resource utilisation are used for the renewable energy sources. For example, the figure for on-shore wind was calculated as 20kWh per person per day, which was using typical wind farm densities, covering the windiest 10% of the UK. The shallow offshore wind figure was calculated by covering a third of all shallow UK waters with wind farms.
Some results that jumped out at me were the greatly improved efficiency of electrified transport (including electric cars), and the use of heat pumps in homes which resulted in greater efficiency than Combined Heat and Power, without locking heating infrastructure into the use of fossil fuels or biomass.
The entire book is available to download as a pdf. There is also a 10-page synopsis which contains much of the juiciest stuff:
Sustainable energy - without the hot air was written in 2008 by David J C McKay, professor of Natural Philosophy at the department of Physics at Cambridge University. He was appointed chief scientific adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change in October 2009.