Going from the inner city to the open desert, a seasoned environmental advocate looks at solar energy’s remarkable ascent and its promise for America’s future
Solar power was once the domain of futurists and environmentally minded suburbanites. Today it is part of mainstream America. Scan the skyline of downtown neighborhoods, check out the rooftop of the nearest Walmart, and take a close look at your local sports arena. Chances are you’ll find solar panels in those and many other unexpected places.
In Harness the Sun, Philip Warburg takes readers on a far-flung journey that explores America’s solar revolution. Beginning with his solar-powered home in New England, he introduces readers to the pioneers who are spearheading our move toward a clean energy economy. We meet the CEOs who are propelling solar power to prominence and the intrepid construction workers who scale our rooftops installing panels. We encounter the engineers who are building giant utility-scale projects in prime solar states like Nevada, Arizona, and California, and the biologists who make sure wildlife is protected at those sites.
Warburg shows how solar energy has won surprising support across the political spectrum. Prominent conservatives embrace solar power as an emblem of market freedom, while environmental advocates see it as a way to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, economic-justice activists celebrate solar’s potential to lift up low-income communities, and Native American leaders welcome the income and jobs that the industry will bring to their communities.
Yet solar energy has its downsides and detractors too. Conservationists worry about the impact of large solar farms on protected animal species, and some local citizens groups resent the encroachment of solar projects on farmland and open spaces. Warburg gives voice to those at the epicenter of these conflicts and points the way to constructive solutions.
Harness the Sun offers a grounded, persuasive vision of America’s energy future. It is a future fueled by clean, renewable sources of power, with solar at center stage.
“Warburg’s graceful, diverse, wide-ranging, and well-balanced storytelling...[is] a valuable service to a society rife with solar myths, many deliberately manufactured...An important and timely contribution to the public understanding of solar power.”
—Amory Lovins, Science
“Harness the Sun eloquently details the role that solar can—and must—play in our clean-energy future.”
—Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council
“Harness the Sun is an indispensable guide to the technologies that undergird an emerging solar revolution. It describes the businesses that will profit from it, the interests that will be disrupted by it, and the policies that could accelerate it. Phil Warburg does all this by wandering across the land, talking with workers and consumers and CEOs, and asking them exactly the questions that every intelligent, open-minded reader would want to have answered. If you are intrigued by solar energy in concept but think it is a just a futuristic option, read this book today.”
—Denis Hayes, national coordinator of the first Earth Day and former director of the Solar Energy Research Institute
“As an environmental scientist with more than thirty years’ experience, I applaud Philip Warburg for shining much-needed light on the renewable energy potential of contaminated lands. These sites can help expand our clean-energy capacity in places where industry has left a lot more than rust behind.”
—Deborah Sawyer, founder and CEO, Environmental Design International, Inc.
“Phil Warburg has invented a new literary genre: the clean energy travelogue. His trips to the places and characters behind the solar energy boom are brilliantly entertaining and informative. He has written the definitive guide to America’s solar transformation.”
—U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (ret.), former chair, House Energy and Commerce Committee
Note on Terminology
CHAPTER ONE Our House, Your House
CHAPTER TWO Ballfields and Boxtops
CHAPTER THREE Local Communities Capture the Sun
CHAPTER FOUR Wastelands Redeemed
CHAPTER FIVE The Desert’s Harvest
CHAPTER SIX Tribal Sun
CHAPTER SEVEN Focusing on Tonopah
CHAPTER EIGHT Cradle to Grave
CHAPTER NINE Building a Robust Solar Economy
CHAPTER TEN Disrupting the Utility Status Quo
EPILOGUE Our Solar Future
- San Gabriel Valley Tribune, review, 7/30/2016
- WBUR/Cognoscenti, original piece, 7/15/2016
- The Boston Globe, op-ed, 5/18/2016
- Mother Earth News, listicle and excerpt, April issue
- The State of Things/WUNC (NPR North Carolina), interview, 2/4/2016
- New York Times, letter to the editor, 12/8/2015
- Miami Herald, op-ed, 11/15/2015
- CleanTechnica, review, 11/12/2015
- The New York Times, op-ed, 11/3/2015
- Science Magazine (print), review, 10/9/2015
- C-SPAN2's BookTV, book discussion, 9/30/2015
- KPFK-FM/Uprising Radio, interview, 9/10/2015
- The Joy Cardin Show/WPR, interview, 9/9/2015
- WOSU-FM/All Sides (NPR/Columbus, OH), interview, 9/8/2015
- Union of Concerned Scientists/The Equation, review, 9/8/2015
- Harvard Magazine, mention, Sept/Oct 2015 issue
- AltEnergyMag.com, Q&A, 8/25/2015
- Environment360, essay, 8/24/2015
- The Christian Science Monitor, essay, 8/20/2015
- The Daily Beast, original op-ed, 8/14/2015
- Kirkus Reviews, review, 6/8/2015