Sustainable Energy – without the hot air

‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’ is a new book by David MacKay. I have not read it, but I very well might after reading an interesting review of it in the Economist.

David MacKay thinks there is too much hot air surrounding energy and climate change discussions. In his book, MacKay does back-of-the-envelope calculations of the potential in different renewable energies as alternatives to coal. For example, he concludes that if all of Britain’s energy needs should be supplied from onshore wind power, the entire country needs to be covered by wind turbines. From the review:

Although Mr MacKay’s conclusions are fascinating, much of his book’s appeal lies in its methods. Ballpark calculations are a powerful way of getting to grips with a problem. The book is a tour de force, showing, for example, how the potential contribution of biofuels can be approximated from just three numbers: the intensity of sunlight, the efficiency with which plants turn that sunlight into stored energy and the available land area in Britain. As a work of popular science it is exemplary: the focus may be the numbers, but most of the mathematical legwork is confined to the appendices and the accompanying commentary is amusing and witty, as well as informed.

MacKay’s book is now on my short list of books to read. (Download it for free from!)


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