Friday, May 2, 2008
Earth The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy And Stop Global Warming by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn is a guide to renewable energy companies working on breakthrough technologies. Fred Krupp correctly states that unless there is a national competitive cap and trade system for carbon, renewable energy will not take off in this country in time to prevent global environmental disaster.
Each chapter in this book focuses on a specific type of renewable energy; solar, biofuels, ocean energy, "clean coal" (specifically carbon sequestration), geothermal energy, assorted energy sources, what can be done now, and the future.
In the chapter on solar, three types of solar power were discussed photovoltaic, thin film, and solar concentrating. The most interesting of these technologies to me is the solar tower. There was a brief overview of the "stirling engine", a type of engine often used with solar concentrating mirrors. Solar concentrating technology is an old technology that can use solar power to create utility scale energy.
This book is focused on new developments in alternative energy. Because this it skips the two already developed alternative energy sources, wind and hydropower. It would have been nice if there was some coverage of micro-hydro and distributed hydroelectric power. Oddly, the section on wind energy focused on wind energy kits and wind energy blimps. Basically, a blimp is raised on a tether with wind turbines attached. The tether is a cable which can take the current genterated at high altitudes and send it to the ground for storage.
I really enjoyed reading the section on ocean energy. It gave the complete history of the aquabuoy wave energy turbine, and a bit on the pelamis wave energy device. There was also a bit on underwater wave turbines similar to wind turbines. Ocean energy is one of the newest forms of energy and has not been exploited very much.
I thought the section on geothermal was quite limited. I think that the author correctly points out that not much funding is being put into developing new sources of geothermal energy.
The author did the best job of describing biofuels. He attacked ADM, Archer Daniels Midland for their focus on food (specifically corn) as a fuel. A lot of next generation biofuel companies were described, Verenium which makes cellulosic ethanol, Greenfuel Technologies which is working on algae biofuel, Amyris which is designing genetically engineered biojet fuel.
There was a discussion of miscellaneous technologies. Things like Waste Management's landfill gasification program, and using animal waste to create methanol. Also conservation was briefly covered.
The car was brought up in the last chapter. The author focused on the electric car. He mentions two developments that are interesting, the Tesla roadster all electric sports car, and the Volt, General Motor's planned hybrid electric car.
If you want a survey of new energy technology and ideas this book is for you. It lists many companies that are working on potential breakthrough renewable energy technology. This would be a good book to read if you are an investor. The authors point out that there is a considerable amount of money in Silicon Valley waiting to be tapped if the regulatory environment changes for alternative energy research and development. Google has an interesting program, Renewable Energe Cheaper than coal, and Vinod Khosla one of the founders of Sun Microsystems has started a venture capital firm focused on biofuels. The will to change is there, but the environment in the United States to bring about the change is difficult.
This book was on the New York Times Bestseller list, it is 279 pages long, there is an index and a short list of websites focused on renewable energy. I was not impressed with the writing in the book, it was a little slow. However, the subject held my interest readily. Fred Krupp is the president of the Ennvironmental Defense Fund, and Miriam Horn is a journalist.