I’m writing this post, sitting outside, overlooking a pool sparkling in the sunshine. OK, not really but it gets your mind in the right place – a sunny day. Solar energy has been gaining ground in both the U.S. and especially Europe so I thought it was high-time I learn more about the history of solar. “Switching to Solar,” by Bob Johnstone should become the industry and consumer reference to the worldwide solar story.
I have to admit that reading books on energy, environment and ag can be a bit dry regardless of the veracity of the information. But Johnstone broke the mold with his engaging story telling, compelling information and insights on the solar industry. It probably helps that he is a journalist, but he takes us through the history of solar weaving through Europe and taking a stop in Germany and coming back to the States – a country that was winning and now is losing, the solar technology race to countries overseas such as China.
There are several issues that are discussed in the book that are of special importance to the solar industry: rate of conversion, subsidies/tariffs, industry viability, legislation, and technology. He also talks about overcoming utility resistance to renewable energy and their adoption to both energy efficiency strategies and the adoption of renewable energy. Two areas he didn’t discuss in detail are the challenges with storage and transmission lines/ smart grid issues.
He writes, “For utilities, promoting energy efficiency was an unnatural act. Thus far, their entire rationale had been to encourage customers to use more energy, not less. their rate structure was designed to reward consumption, by charging customers less for the additional kilowatt-hours they used. Their domestic sales departments came up with promotional gimmicks to encourage usage. Utility salespeople gleefully handed out free hair dryers to their customers.”
See this ladies. It’s the utility companies’ fault that we’re contributing to global climate change with our old school hairdryers. Continue reading