Publisher: Earthscan Date of Publication: 2005
Price: £ 24.95 ISBN:1 84407 728 6
Pages: xix + 272 Format: Paperback

Overall Score:

Target Readership Sen. Secondary For help with criteria, click here


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1 - Energy, climate change and renewable energy resources; 2 - Solar radiation; 3 - Solar thermal water hearting; 4 - Photovoltaics; 5 - Wind power; 6 - Economics; 7 - Simulations and CD Rom of the book.


During the first oil 'crisis' in the 1970s, alternative energy systems were a popular topic. The backlash that followed reduced the importance of all environmental ideas and seemed to leave energy systems in a quiet backwater. Although not in the mainstream a large volume of work has been undertaken because, as we face our newest 'oil crisis', we can see a far more sophisticated face to renewable energy. There can be few who would deny the role these systems can play in our future energy scenarios. What is needed now is an update on actual systems which is where this text comes in.

Translated from the original German, this book offers the reader a range of experiences from basic outline to some quite sophisticated calculations. The first chapter is an excellent overview of the renewable energy scene. This means the range of sources available as well as their current and future contributions. The remainder of the book expands upon the various ideas outlined at the beginning. For example, chapter two looks at solar radiation starting with basic solar physics and radiation levels and moving on to equations of solar intensity and directions of panels. This mix of theory and practical, simple and complex is the main feature both of this chapter and the book as a whole: which works well in practice. Those not wanting the mathematics can safely leave such work knowing they'll still get the basic ideas whilst senior students could even try out some of the calculations (or use the CD Rom supplied - see below). Chapter two focussed on basic solar physics: chapter three looks at thermal water heating. It starts by noting the current uses of such ideas e.g. swimming pools and goes on to describe other systems in terms of design and efficiency. Chapter four moves on to photovoltaics. This is by far the most technical chapter of the book. It is possible to gain an overview of what technologies might be usable but there is also a fair amount of detailed mathematics and physics to contend with. Wind power (chapter five) returns to the original mix with a detailed description of the various rotor systems and their efficiencies. A final chapter tackles the key idea of economics. However good the scheme (e.g. photovoltaics) until the new systems beats the old it won't be able to compete. One good idea to come from the two decades of thought was the drive to make renewable sources comparable in price to non-renewable ones. This chapter ranges over many ideas making it the companion to the opening chapter - an excellent review of current ideas. Apart from the range of ideas presented in a number of perspectives, the book also has a CD Rom with all images from the book (usable with care for teaching), a set of websites and other data (such as the Kyoto Protocol text) and a very interesting section on software. Some is freeware, other material is demo but all would give an added dimension to the class especially if this were tied in with other project work e.g. design and technology. The author's personal website is also worth visiting as it contains a good range of ideas not always mentioned fully here.

Overall, this is a very good text. It provides the reader with a solid range of key ideas in the field and 2 chapters that provide excellent overviews. It tackles the subject in a range of ways which, although some aspects might be seen as complex, provides a sense of the depth needed to understand fully the contributions that can be made by renewable resources. Although some senior secondary students might use some of the ideas it is more aimed at educator/undergraduate. However, those needing a good basis in the topic would find this text a useful ally.


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