An Engineer In Wonderland – A thoughtful energy book – free!

I am a Radio 4 fan, and once again it has come up trumps.

talismanwindmillthin.jpgI am a Radio 4 fan, and once again it has come up trumps.

On More or Less – a programme about numbers – it drew my attention to a book on sustainable energy by David MacKay, a Cambridge professor who said he wanted to get to the bottom of the world’s energy balance, and did, and he wrote it all down.

The book is called ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’, and can be bought in paper form or, most generously on the part of MacKay, downloaded for free as a .pdf.

This is one of two 5MW deep water wind turbines constructed by Talisman Energy (UK)

It is delightfully informal, full of hard information, very good at putting things in perspective, and totally lacking un-informed opinion.

There are simple this-square-is-bigger-than-that-square diagrams to allow those less happy with numbers to get a feel for relative needs and resources, then lots of numbers and graphs for the numerate.

The graphs for carbon dioxide growth over the last 300 years are, frankly, frightening – and all the better for being on linear rather than log scales.

Much as I used to be pretty anti-nuclear – only because of the total lack of long-term storage for high-level waste – the figures in this book have added to the growing weight of evidence pushing me toward fission.

Then, as soon as possible – more money please – fusion needs to supplement then supplant fission

I am having a re-think about offshore windmills
 – the figures are neither brilliant nor awful.

I am going to dust off and execute the roof-top solar water heating plan for Chateau Alice.

And someone somehow will have to persuade all of us to consume less rather soon. I turned my ancient inefficient hot water heater down to 30mins per day this morning – thank you Professor MacKay, I have been meaning to do that.

By the way, some people bleat about wind turbines killing birds.
According to the Professor:
30,000 birds are killed each year by the wind turbines that generate 9% of Denmark’s electricity.
In the same country, 1,000,000 birds are killed per year by cars.
And in Britain, 55,000,000 birds per year are killed by cats.


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  1. It is a shame that sham ‘greening’ further confuses what is already a most complex situation.
    Dr Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Science’ is another gem.
    I despair at the lack of ways to disseminate information revealed by rigorous science to the bulk of the population – particularly as TV operators drop their science programmes (Why did Horizon ever add “drama”?) and newspapers abuse their un-regulated status.
    Not to mention irresponsible ad men and marketeers.
    Off now, to shout at the radio

  2. I’m pleased to see someone promoting this book, we need some sanity around this subject. Most of the voices heard around sustainability and ‘green’ are selling their ‘stuff’ and a lot of it is snake oil in my opinion. Projects are being proposed not based on fact but based on opinion and desire to make money.

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