Saturday, 27 March 2004

Free Electricity Forever - How to Get Free Solar Power From Photovoltaic Cell Panels (Book Review)

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune of taking a tour of Germany.

What, you ask, does Germany have to do with a review of a book on getting electricity from solar panels?

Pretty much everything. You see, Germany is the world leader in production of photovoltaic solar energy. They produce more of it than the rest of Europe combined, so clearly they are well ahead of their time. I saw entire towns being powered by solar voltaic cells.

So when I got back to the United States, I had a real interest in learning more. I know that the electricity itself is free, but I wondered if it was cost effective here to install the solar systems that would deliver the electricity.

It seems there are two types of books available on the subject. One goes extremely deep into the technical aspects of solar power, has many pages, and costs anywhere from $30 on up.

The other "type" is a little, basic "solar how to" book such as this. AJ O'Brien cautions readers up front that this book is small - and it is. O'Brien suggests to readers that it is for those who are just beginning their "solar journey" (as I was).

The book has only a few chapters. The chapter names follow something of a "who, what, when, where, why, and how" format. Here are a few of the chapter names:

Why Solar?
How Does a Solar Cell System Work?
How Do I Choose the Right System For Me?
What Do I Need to Know Before I Buy?
He finishes off the book with a section entitled, "Five Things You Must Know About Solar Power."

The book is rich on basics, light on details, both as the author promised. One of the interesting things he covered is that solar generated electricity is likely the future in the United States and other countries, whether we like it or not. The reason is that we are running out of other options. In Florida where I live (and where the author apparently lives, too), we use coal and nuclear to produce electricity. Coal burns dirty, and it takes a lot of effort and energy to clean the effluent. Nuclear, of course, has its own issues, as the Japanese have learned. Solar panels, on the other hand, produce clean and unlimited electricity, and have no "side effects." We're just not ready for it yet because of the cost. But we're getting there.

O'Brien covers all of the basics for a starter book. He has a Resources section for those, like me, who wish to learn more.

This book is probably worth reading as a starting point. I would like to see just a bit more detail. However, it's a pretty decent starter book for your "solar journey" or just to learn the basics of this subject quickly. I recommend it for those purposes; after reading this book you can decide if you want to go into more depth.