Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air

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Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale—for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large.

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Fantastic book, a must read for every one. I wish more books were written in this format. No bullshit, just numbers derived using first principles based Fermi calculations. I really wish that journalists, authors, politicians and businessmen would present and/or select the best ideas/solutions based on David MacKay's methodology. 

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David MacKay’s Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air is a remarkably engaging book; it has certainly kicked off
and contributed to some very energetic discussions here. The book, which was written by a physics professor at Cambridge and is available for free online, is essentially a detailed numerical consideration of renewable forms of power generation, as well as technologies to support it, and to reduce total power demand. MacKay concludes that the effort required to produce sustainable energy systems is enormous, and that one of the most viable options is to build huge solar facilities in the world’s deserts, and use that to provide an acceptable amount of energy to everyone.
The book has a physics and engineering perspective, rather than one focused on politics or business. MacKay considers the limits of what is physically possible, given the character of the world and the physical laws that govern it. Given that he does not take economics into consideration much, his conclusions demonstrate the high water mark of what is possible, with unlimited funds. In the real world, renewable deployment will be even more challenging than it is in his physics-only model.
Here are some of the posts in which the book has already been discussed:
* David MacKay’s sustainable energy calculations
* A renewable energy plan for the UK
* Carnot efficiency
* Increasing renewable capacity is much harder than increasing energy consumption
I have added relevant information from the book to the comment sections of a great many other posts, on everything from wind power to biofuels.
Even if you don’t agree with MacKay’s analysis, reading his book will provide some useful figures, graphs, and equations, as well as prompt a lot of thought. It is certainly one of the books that I would recommend most forcefully to policy makers, analysts, politicians, and those interested in deepening their understanding of what a sustainable energy future would involve.

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About the author (2009)

Breakthrough Institute is proud to announce David MacKay, Regius Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University and former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change, as the 2016 Breakthrough Paradigm Award winner. 

David MacKay is a professor in the department of physics at Cambridge University, a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change, and a regular lecturer on sustainable energy.

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