Solar Energy Books – Which Should You Read?

Solar Energy Books Which Should You Read

At this point in the 21st century, there is no doubt that one of the ways to move forward with the current global climate crisis is to switch to renewable, clean energy. Although the solution is more complex and involves several aspects of our society and our personal lifestyles, a big part of it can be the use of solar energy as a replacement for the conventional burning of coal.

As such, no matter where we live in the world, it is now each of our duty to get informed about the clean technologies that might one day save our planet. And there’s no better way to accomplish this than by reading a few reliable solar energy books. Below, you’ll find a list of five such titles, each of which is focused on a specific type of reader or on a given theme.

Solar Electricity Basics: A Green Energy Guide, by Dan Chiras

The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future, by Hermann Scheer

Energy from the Sun, by Allan Fowler

The Best Books on Solar Energy in the 21st Century

As is the case with research in most fields, not all published books on solar energy are worth reading. Some are mostly devoid of content, while others rely on incorrect information to make their point. To help you avoid these unfortunate publications, we’ve reviewed tens of solar energy books and picked the top 5 most relevant titles to give you the pros and cons of solar energy.

Solar Electricity Basics: A Green Energy Guide, by Dan Chiras

Editor's Pick

In June 1996, the former college professor Dan Chiras paid his last electricity bill. Using his many years of experience in sustainable development, he built a state-of-the-art home in Evergreen Colorado, which he then equipped with solar panels and a small wind generator. Ever since he has written more than 25 books on solar energy in order to help others make the same transition.

Chiras’ introduction to solar energy, Solar Electricity Basics: A Green Energy Guide, is the perfect place to start if you have no experience with this topic. If you’re considering the switch to solar electricity in your home or business, it’s only natural to feel apprehensive at first. This guide works to meet your concerns and give you a better understanding of the technology you’re about to implement. The book is not a manual for future PV installers, but rather a first look at solar energy written in a language that all readers find accessible.

In it, you’ll find information about how solar power systems work, what their different components are, as well as whether this type of installation is suitable for your region. Last, but not least, Chiras touches on some of the customization options you will have as the future owner of a solar-powered home.

PROS:

  • Conceived as a beginner’s guide, this is one of the few books on solar energy that requires no previous knowledge from its readers.
  • The guide is comprehensive enough to prepare a home or business owner with no previous experience for the installation and maintenance of a solar power system.
  • Written by an author with more than a decade of first-hand experience with solar energy.

CONS:

  • Although ideal for beginners, this guide is not detailed enough for those who are studying to become PV installers.

The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future, by Hermann Scheer

Most Popular

From the perspective of the individual home-owner, the switch from conventional electricity to solar power can seem fairly simple, especially now, when the US government is focused on incentivizing more and more changes towards a sustainable lifestyle. At a macro level, however, our entire society and way of life is intricately linked with the burning of fossil fuels, so the complete overhaul of global electricity grids might be more complex than meets the eye.

This is the thesis of Hermann Scheer in his study, The Solar Economy. Of all the recent solar energy books, the latter is perhaps the most interesting in terms of the technological, economic, and political implications of the transition to a renewable source of electricity. A notorious advocate for solar energy, the author does not shy away from naming and carefully describing the global challenges involved in the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Scheer is convinced that, in spite of great adversity, the transition to solar energy can be done in time to prevent significant damage to our planet. The book summarizes his view on the matter, together with the solutions he proposes moving forward.

PROS:

  • Takes a macro approach to the current climate crisis and the transition to renewable energy.
  • Offers a deeper understanding of the intricate works of the fossil fuel industry and the challenges presented by a global switch to solar electricity.
  • Written by an advocate of solar power who is not afraid to identify the biggest problems of this type of renewable energy.

CONS:

  • Not a suitable guide for those looking to learn about the practical installation of PV solar systems.

Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy, by John Perlin

In his intriguing study, Let it Shine, John Perlin proposes that, even though we are used to thinking about solar power as a thing of the future, humanity has been familiar with this renewable source of energy for thousands of years. He begins his journey backward in time in the 19th and early 20th century when the foundation of solar electricity as we know it today was constructed.

Perlin then takes the reader further back to the Renaissance period, when Leonardo da Vinci was already designing a solar water heater; the Chinese Bronze Age, when Eastern peoples used mirrors to light fires; as well as many other relevant examples of human beings harnessing the power of the sun. The pervading idea is that our resistance to the current wave of innovation in solar energy may be less justified than we think. For billions of years, the sun has been one of humanity’s most reliable allies in the struggle for survival – something that we seem to have forgotten over the previous centuries.

John Perlin is the author of four books on solar energy, as well as a scriptwriter for documentaries on the same topic. His study, A Forest Journey, was selected by Harvard University Press as one of the greatest one hundred books published by the press, but also as a “Classic of World Science and History.”

PROS:

  • A very interesting study with a diachronic perspective on humanity’s intimate relationship with solar power.
  • Written in an accessible language and engaging style.
  • Offers viable arguments for why we should embrace, rather than feel intimidated by new technologies for solar energy.

CONS:

  • Not a suitable guide for those looking to learn about the practical installation of PV solar systems.

Solar Electricity Handbook: 2019 Edition, by Michael Boxwell

Written by Michael Boxwell, a technical consultant, designer, and former managing director for an EV supplier in the UK, the Solar Electricity Handbook brings together decades of hands-on experience with solar energy in order to teach others how to approach this technology. This is, by far, one of the most reliable and popular solar energy books for future PV installers.

One of the biggest advantages of this handbook is that it starts from scratch. It does not expect the reader to have any previous knowledge of or experience with PV installations, but it is comprehensive enough to prepare any reader for the NABCEP certification exam. From the way solar energy works to the components and design of a complete system, details about the setup and maintenance of solar panels, and much more, this book by Boxwell features everything you need to know to become a successful employee in the solar sector.

Michael Boxwell has written tens of similar books on solar energy and has designed a variety of solar power systems throughout his career. He regularly appears on television to support the advantages of going solar and has even advised the Obama administration in this respect. While the book won’t directly tell you how to start a solar energy business, it contains enough information to get you started.

PROS:

  • A comprehensive handbook that can prepare anyone for the NABCEP certification exam.
  • Does not assume any previous knowledge or experience on behalf of the reader.
  • Written by an expert in the solar sector.

CONS:

  • Although written in an accessible language, the book compresses a lot of information between its covers and might therefore come across a little dense.

Energy from the Sun, by Allan Fowler

Best Value

As parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to prepare them for the future. Given the current circumstances of our planet, this also means educating them about the environment, humanity’s impact on it, and how they might achieve a more sustainable lifestyle than we did.

Allan Fowler’s Energy from the Sun is essentially a solar energy book written in a way that children can understand and appreciate. Not only is the language accessible, but the book is also augmented with plenty of full-sized, colorful pictures that are able to captivate and maintain a young learner’s attention.

Whether you intend to use this book in class in order to introduce students to the topic of solar energy and the broader idea of environmental awareness or you just buy it for your little ones at home, the content will not disappoint. This is certainly not Allan Fowler’s first non-fiction book for children and the author’s experience in the niche shows through in a positive way.

PROS:

  • One of the most approachable non-fiction books on solar energy.
  • Language is suitable for young learners.
  • Contains plenty of illustrations that make the text more engaging.

CONS:

  • Aside from the text and illustrations, the book contains no additional materials (flash cards, DVDs) that can be used in class.

The set of solar energy books that we have reviewed above is just a small sample of the already vast literature on this topic. As you can tell even from this restricted selection, the concept of solar energy is approached from a variety of angles by different authors so that each reader, no matter their background or interests, can find a suitable read. In other words, the solar energy information is already out there. You just have to ask the right questions. (And for a similar topic, check out our favorite solar system books for kids!)

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