Friday, May 30, 2008

The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook

The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis, Greg Pahl

As conventional energy sources begin to dwindle, we will need to rely heavily on renewable and alternative sources to provide the basic services we once took for granted. Researching and employing these sources can be a daunting task. This book provides a basic tutorial on many of these sources as well as strategies for adaptation for individuals, small businesses and communities. As the title suggests, it is geared heavily for small communities, so many of the projects highlighted are at a larger scale than the individual homeowner. Still, I found it to have some good information.

The first chapters recap reasons why we desperately need alternative energy sources, namely peak oil. The author references The Long Emergency as an inspiration for this volume, however takes a more optimistic tack than Kunstler. While Kunstler goes out of his way to denigrate every possible alternative source, Pahl details how each of these sources are being used right now...and what the future may hold.

The book covers the following topics: solar, wind, water, biomass, liquid biofuels and geothermal. Each topic is viewed from a small community point of view, with many examples of current projects. Unfortunately, the book does not delve much into cost analysis, only showing projects in the most positive light. If these projects are cost efficient or not is left up to the reader to research for himself. In the author's defense, cost benefit analysis varies greatly on a case by case basis, and has many variables to consider.

For the casual reader, this book is not a must read. It does, however, provide a strong background in the majority of current alternative energy sources. If one is contemplating alternative sources for a small business, farm or community...I would recommend it. Also it would benefit local governmental leaders; mayors, city councils, home owner association boards, school boards, etc.

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