The best renewable energy books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about renewable energy and why they recommend each book.

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Green Illusions

By Ozzie Zehner,

Book cover of Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

Most environmentalists today believe that wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars represent our path to a sustainable future. In Green Illusions, engineer Ozzie Zehner blows this thesis out of the water.

Green technologies, Zehner explains, require fossil fuels at every step in their production, maintenance, and disposal. But he is not advocating for continuing to use fossil fuels. Rather, Zehner argues that we have a consumption crisis, and that building more industrial products in factories will not solve the issue. He concludes by offering straightforward, common-sense solutions that actually move us in the right direction.


Who am I?

I’m a wilderness guide, community organizer, and writer focused on stopping the destruction of the planet. My work, which has appeared in The New York Times and been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, has taken me to the Siberian Arctic to document climate change research, to the Philippines to work with grassroots communities defending tropical rainforests, and to Nevada where I began a protest movement against an open-pit lithium mine.


I wrote...

Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do about It

By Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, Max Wilbert

Book cover of Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do about It

What is my book about?

Bright Green Lies argues that solar and wind energy, electric cars, efficiency programs, and green cities are failing to protect the planet, because these techno-fixes are designed to sustain industrial civilization — the way of life that is killing the planet — and protect it from the effects of peak oil and ecological collapse.

When we find ourselves no longer listening to and retelling bright green lies,” the authors write, “we will find ourselves where we should have been all along, in alignment with the earth and with the powerful, wonderful, beautiful, creative processes that have made life on this planet what it is.”

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air

By David JC MacKay,

Book cover of Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air

David MacKay does something unusual for a university professor. He brings all the talk about energy and climate change to life. A fantastic analysis of energy in all its forms, bringing it down to earth. His book answers the real questions that we need to ask, such as how much land would be needed to power the United Kingdom from renewable energy? His answers are detailed in graphs and pictures making them accessible and easy to understand. This brings a sense of realism and raises the conversation to the next level.


Who am I?

I am a Scottish geographer and energy specialist. I love nature and snow and don't want to see it destroyed or lost. I wrote Carbon Choices, on the common-sense solutions to our climate and nature crises, to share my expertise and passion to help people to make a difference. People, businesses, and governments all need to understand the serious consequences of climate change. Education is the first step towards taking action. Carbon Choices focuses on the solutions, many of which are 'common sense', to protect people and nature upon which we all depend.


I wrote...

Carbon Choices: Common-sense Solutions to our Climate and Nature Crises

By Neil Kitching,

Book cover of Carbon Choices: Common-sense Solutions to our Climate and Nature Crises

What is my book about?

An accessible guide to our climate crisis. Carbon Choices will help you to understand climate change and nature loss and provides common-sense solutions before COP26, the global climate conference to be held in Glasgow. Section 1 introduces carbon dioxide, climate change, and the destruction of nature. A summary of the impacts of climate change and how we have created an environmental crisis. Section 2 introduces ten building blocks that are needed to lay the foundations to enable us to make better choices for the planet. Section 3 applies these building blocks to our everyday lives - our diets, homes, travel, shopping, and leisure. By doing so we can rewild nature, improve our society, be healthier, happier and lead more fulfilled lives. The future can be better. 

"I greatly look forward to reading it", Sir David Attenborough. 

Energy at the End of the World

By Laura Watts,

Book cover of Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga

At their best, anthropologists open up for readers the infinite variety of what it means to be human. Laura Watts is the best. More than just an incisive cultural analyst, Watts is a skilled poet and storyteller. Her book about renewable energy innovation in the Orkney Islands takes us, literally and figuratively, to the end of the world. We learn what it means to live in a world wrought by energy technologies. We walk among all different kinds of people who have the imagination and the gumption to try to re-imagine and re-energize that world in radically new ways. And along the way, we begin to see how all of those people come together, in one place, in odd collaborations, to make futures for the rest of us.


Who am I?

My motto is: we are techno-humans. Whatever nature or God created, we re-created. We move in cars, chat via the Internet, and eat industrial food. Technologies shape our bodies, identities, even imagination. That’s why the energy transition fascinates me. We propose to rip out and replace the technological foundations of the global economy. No less than the data revolution, energy transitions are about human re-invention. So, what kinds of human futures are we engineering? And can we design energy futures that make human futures better, more inclusive, more just? Figuring that out is my job as Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University.


I co-created...

Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

By Clark A. Miller,

Book cover of Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

What is our book about?

What will it be like to live in cities powered by solar energy? Over the past century, fossil fuels have deeply influenced urban design and living, from lighted nightscapes and suburban sprawl to polluted environments in fenceline communities. How, in turn, will solar energy mark the future of cities? A collection of science fiction, art, and expert commentary on the future of urban solar design, Cities of Light tells the stories of diverse communities in four iconic US cities and their struggles to use solar energy to solve climate change and end injustice.

Through these stories, inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Cities of Light deepens our understanding of the technologies that power urban life and their essential role in shaping the cities of tomorrow.

This book is free and you can get it here.

Solar Power

By Dustin Mulvaney,

Book cover of Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice

Power. We all need it. In the future, a lot of it will be solar. By 2050, half or more of global energy will come via photovoltaic technologies. That’s 100+ billion solar panels, with an annual churn of 2-4 billion. Which makes the solar industry one of the most important on the planet. Solar Power takes a hard look inside the solar industry: its materials, processes, facilities, workforces, waste streams, and landscapes. Mulvaney pulls no punches, but his fundamental message is simple: there are a lot of different ways to make and deploy 100 billion solar panels. The choices we make will have huge implications for how the benefits, costs, and risks of solar energy get distributed across different groups of people. Just like any other giant industry.


Who am I?

My motto is: we are techno-humans. Whatever nature or God created, we re-created. We move in cars, chat via the Internet, and eat industrial food. Technologies shape our bodies, identities, even imagination. That’s why the energy transition fascinates me. We propose to rip out and replace the technological foundations of the global economy. No less than the data revolution, energy transitions are about human re-invention. So, what kinds of human futures are we engineering? And can we design energy futures that make human futures better, more inclusive, more just? Figuring that out is my job as Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University.


I co-created...

Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

By Clark A. Miller,

Book cover of Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

What is our book about?

What will it be like to live in cities powered by solar energy? Over the past century, fossil fuels have deeply influenced urban design and living, from lighted nightscapes and suburban sprawl to polluted environments in fenceline communities. How, in turn, will solar energy mark the future of cities? A collection of science fiction, art, and expert commentary on the future of urban solar design, Cities of Light tells the stories of diverse communities in four iconic US cities and their struggles to use solar energy to solve climate change and end injustice.

Through these stories, inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Cities of Light deepens our understanding of the technologies that power urban life and their essential role in shaping the cities of tomorrow.

This book is free and you can get it here.

How to Live Off-Grid

By Nick Rosen,

Book cover of How to Live Off-Grid

I have read this book several times it is so packed with ideas and inspiration. The author travels to a variety of communities, some small, some larger, and investigates how the people are tackling their ambition for self-sufficiency in numerous different ways. If you’re thinking of an alternative off-grid life of self-sufficiency then you will learn just as many ways that may not suit you as those that do. A great education into the realities of this sort of life.


Who am I?

Aged six, I was first given a tiny piece of garden where I grew radishes and lettuces. I haven’t stopped growing my own food since! Everything about it is good for you and I have been writing about this for many years in various magazines and books. I have always been fascinated with the idea of self-sufficiency and love to read about methods old and new.


I wrote...

How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-Sufficiency

By Piers Warren, Tessa Pettingell (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-Sufficiency

What is my book about?

What can you do with a glut of tomatoes? How do you bottle plums and string onions? What can you do that is interesting with all those huge marrows? How do you keep potatoes through the winter? 

How to Store Your Garden Produce: the key to self-sufficiency is the modern guide to storing and preserving your garden produce, enabling you to eat home-grown goodness all year round. The easy-to-use reference section provides storage and preservation techniques for the majority of plant produce commonly grown in gardens and allotments.

Electrify

By Saul Griffith,

Book cover of Electrify: An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

I’ve been working in the solar and battery industry for over 15 years and I can say firsthand that it is totally feasible to electrify everything in your home and live comfortably. Griffith recommends that you should never buy a new fossil fuel appliance ever again. Switching to an electric vehicle, all-electric kitchen appliances, and heat pumps primes us to have a carbon-free home in the future, even if our electrical usage currently relies on fossil fuels. Appliances with a life of 10 to 30 years will eventually be powered by renewables as they get installed on the grid.

Although this transition won't be easy. Appliance manufacturers need some time to improve the reliability of these new electric appliances. Imagine the frustration after installing an expensive, new heat pump water heater and it breaks after two weeks! In addition, some industries will have a very hard time going fully electric,…


Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my career to renewable energy, because I think it really will save us from climate change disaster. Solar, wind, and advanced energy storage will usher us into the 21st century. I’ve seen many innovative people and companies use technology to create a better future. We still have a long uphill battle to reverse climate change, but we now have the technology that can help save our planet. It is time to implement it. These five books (in very different ways) give us the tools and understanding of how renewable energy will shape the future.


I wrote...

Off Grid Solar: A handbook for Photovoltaics with Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion batteries

By Joseph P. O'Connor,

Book cover of Off Grid Solar: A handbook for Photovoltaics with Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion batteries

What is my book about?

Off Grid Solar is a reference guide for builders of solar and battery projects. Written with a DIY mindset, this book establishes a familiarity with off grid equipment, such as solar panels, charge controllers, inverters, and battery systems. This book will help the reader make better decisions using a step-by-step process to build the right energy system for their needs. Design and build your own solar and battery system without the need to hire a solar installation company. 

Energy Overlays

By Elizabeth Monoian (editor), Robert Ferry (editor),

Book cover of Energy Overlays: Land Art Generator Initiative

Humans are creatures driven by what we see happening around us and the stories we tell about those events. And, for more and more of us, cities are where daily life happens. So, the future of cities as places and spaces of human engagement and interaction really matters. Energy Overlays and the Land Art Generator’s other amazing books create a window into how renewable energy might transform the future of urban spaces, places, people, and stories. Prompted by a simple question, “What if energy was also public art?” the Land Art Generator hosts bi-annual global design competitions in collaboration with some of the world’s most iconic cities. The result is a rich and magical tour of the urban future, envisioned by leading architects, urban planners, and energy imaginaries.


Who am I?

My motto is: we are techno-humans. Whatever nature or God created, we re-created. We move in cars, chat via the Internet, and eat industrial food. Technologies shape our bodies, identities, even imagination. That’s why the energy transition fascinates me. We propose to rip out and replace the technological foundations of the global economy. No less than the data revolution, energy transitions are about human re-invention. So, what kinds of human futures are we engineering? And can we design energy futures that make human futures better, more inclusive, more just? Figuring that out is my job as Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University.


I co-created...

Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

By Clark A. Miller,

Book cover of Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

What is our book about?

What will it be like to live in cities powered by solar energy? Over the past century, fossil fuels have deeply influenced urban design and living, from lighted nightscapes and suburban sprawl to polluted environments in fenceline communities. How, in turn, will solar energy mark the future of cities? A collection of science fiction, art, and expert commentary on the future of urban solar design, Cities of Light tells the stories of diverse communities in four iconic US cities and their struggles to use solar energy to solve climate change and end injustice.

Through these stories, inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Cities of Light deepens our understanding of the technologies that power urban life and their essential role in shaping the cities of tomorrow.

This book is free and you can get it here.

Apocalypse Never

By Michael Shellenberger,

Book cover of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

The impending doom of climate change has been stressing me out for over a decade. It feels like my son will inherit a world that resembles the dystopian futures of Mad Max or Blade Runner. But the future we’re entering into will be more nuanced than that. 

This book helped me realize that the future may not be as bleak as I had once imagined. The environmental alarmists may have good intentions, but their efforts might be causing more harm than good.


Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my career to renewable energy, because I think it really will save us from climate change disaster. Solar, wind, and advanced energy storage will usher us into the 21st century. I’ve seen many innovative people and companies use technology to create a better future. We still have a long uphill battle to reverse climate change, but we now have the technology that can help save our planet. It is time to implement it. These five books (in very different ways) give us the tools and understanding of how renewable energy will shape the future.


I wrote...

Off Grid Solar: A handbook for Photovoltaics with Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion batteries

By Joseph P. O'Connor,

Book cover of Off Grid Solar: A handbook for Photovoltaics with Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion batteries

What is my book about?

Off Grid Solar is a reference guide for builders of solar and battery projects. Written with a DIY mindset, this book establishes a familiarity with off grid equipment, such as solar panels, charge controllers, inverters, and battery systems. This book will help the reader make better decisions using a step-by-step process to build the right energy system for their needs. Design and build your own solar and battery system without the need to hire a solar installation company. 

Our Biggest Experiment

By Alice Bell,

Book cover of Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

Alice Bell offers a full history of climate science, from Eunice Newton Foote’s early CO2 experiments in the 1850s, to Thomas Edison, Big Oil, the formation of the IPCC, and beyond. Given such a pressing crisis, we can often get caught up with the here and now – Bell’s book allows us to take a step back and remind ourselves how we got here, and learn the lessons from history. 


Who am I?

I’m an environmental journalist (BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times) and book author, based in the UK. My interest lies in the intersection between human health, the environment, and climate crisis: the actions we can take that not only reduce climate change for future generations but also improve biodiversity, health, and wellbeing right now. That led to me write my first book, Clearing The Air, about air pollution. And I’m now writing my second book, The Last Drop, looking at how climate change is affecting the world’s water cycle and our access to freshwater. My best books list below maybe misses out on some obvious choices (Naomi Klein, Rachel Carson, etc) in favour of more recent books and authors deserving of a wider audience. 


I wrote...

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

By Tim Smedley,

Book cover of Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

What is my book about?

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution is my journey to understand what air pollution is, and how it became a global public health crisis that kills some 7-10 million people globally each year. I was living in London, had just become a Dad, and a headline caught my eye on my commute home on the tube that read: “Oxford Street has worst diesel pollution on Earth”. This completely blindsided me, so I set out to answer four key questions: What is air pollution? What causes it? Why is it bad for our health? And – perhaps most importantly – what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers ultimately became this book, and took me to Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, and, erm, Milton Keynes. I came across some shocking stories, but I also found optimism and solutions for how we can start clearing the air and see instant results. 

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