"No Hot Air Renewable Energy"

This describes a new free downloadable book that starts to address the question:

“How much of the electricity that we need, can be generated using renewable energy instead of coal?” 

It’s a 10MB PDF file, so here are just the first 14 pages.

A review from EV World 25 Feb 09:
Want a refreshing take on the role of renewable energy in our future? Then you’ll want to download David MacKay's free book, Sustainable Energy - without hot air (http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/cft.pdf). Using wry British wit and mathematics, MacKay examines the realistic potential of solar, offshore wind, hydroelectricity, geothermal and wave energy to meet the energy needs of the planet.

Recognizing the wide divergence of opinions -- and hype -- on both sides of this vitally important question, he writes in his introduction...
This heated debate is fundamentally about numbers. How much energy could each source deliver, at what economic and social cost, and with what risks? But actual numbers are rarely mentioned. In public debates, people just say “Nuclear is a money pit” or “We have a huge amount of wave and wind.” The trouble with this sort of language is that it’s not sufficient to know that something is huge; we need to know how the one “huge” compares with another “huge,” namely our huge energy consumption. To make this comparison, we need numbers, not adjectives."

Appropriately, he takes up the question of global climate change right off the blocks, starting with castigating Independent reporter and climate change skeptic Dominic Lawson for "irresponsible journalism" that "deserves a good flushing" (page 21). But his is not just another shoot-from-the-hip, knee-jerk reaction of an Al Gore acolyte, but is one based on sound reason, science and "numbers, not adjectives." MacKay, who is the professor of natural philosophy in the department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, uses a very simple analogy to demonstrate the problem: the passport control arrival area at an international airport.

One thousand passengers arrive per hour, and there are exactly enough clockwork officials to process one thousand passengers per hour. There’s a modest queue, but because of the match of arrival rate to service rate, the queue isn’t getting any longer. Now imagine that owing to fog an extra stream of flights is diverted here from a smaller airport. This stream adds an extra 50 passengers per hour to the arrivals lobby – a small addition compared to the original arrival rate of one thousand per hour. Initially at least, the authorities don’t increase the number of officials, and the officials carry on processing just one thousand passengers per hour. So what happens? Slowly but surely, the queue grows. Burning fossil fuels is undeniably increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and in the surface oceans. No climate scientist disputes this fact. When it comes to CO2 concentrations, man is significant.

Of course, there are still lots of folks out there who think all this climate change, global warming business is just a crock, and I am not going to waste time and words arguing with them. Download the book, look at the numbers, not the adjectives. And to the central question, "Can we live on renewable energy?" you'll have to read the book; it's an eye opener and it's free.