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Taming the Sun

Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet
Narrated by: Barry Abrams
Length: 11 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Solar energy, once a niche application for a limited market, has become the cheapest and fastest-growing power source on earth. What's more, its potential is nearly limitless. But in Taming the Sun, energy expert Varun Sivaram warns that the world is not yet equipped to harness erratic sunshine to meet most of its energy needs. And if solar's current surge peters out, prospects for replacing fossil fuels and averting catastrophic climate change will dim.

Innovation can brighten those prospects, Sivaram explains. Financial innovation is already enticing deep-pocketed investors to fund solar projects around the world. Technological innovation could replace today's solar panels with coatings as cheap as paint and employ artificial photosynthesis to store intermittent sunshine as convenient fuels. And systemic innovation could add flexibility to the world's power grids and other energy systems, so they can dependably channel the sun's unreliable energy.

Unleashing all this innovation will require visionary public policy: funding researchers developing next-generation solar technologies, refashioning energy systems and economic markets, and putting together a diverse clean energy portfolio. Although solar can't power the planet by itself, it can be the centerpiece of a global clean energy revolution.

©2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (P)2018 Tantor

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  • kcwade
  • Washington, D.C.
  • 09-02-18

Comprehensive Summary of Today’s Solar Challenges & Opportunties

Taming the Sun's singular purpose is to convince you of the necessity of investing in early-stage solar energy technologies, but in the process, Varun Sivaram delivers a simply-stated and comprehensive summary of the intertwined issues solar faces in scaling to a level that will deliver global carbon benefits. The audiobook needs to be listened to at 1.5x to get through this long book at a reasonable pace, and I can’t say I prefer Barry Abram’s narration, which delivers some of Sivaram’s summary assessments as overly incredulous and naïve. But the content makes this book worth the listen.

The second chapter - which sets out the stakes for a solar plateau mid-century - is a must-read for everyone in the energy industry; even oil & gas analysts will find their concerns fairly considered and addressed. Subsequent chapters you can probably pick & choose depending on your relative level of expertise. I enjoyed learning about the history of PV cell development, design & deployment of high voltage transmission lines, and networked energy storage strategies. But I found that even the chapters on solar business model development, financing, and rural solar mini-grids - where I have more direct experience - covered the key issues succinctly. At his best, Sivaram clearly links the need to push the envelope in technology, financial, and systemic energy innovation all at once so that solar can deliver on the goals we've implicitly set for it in demanding a low-carbon future. In other places, the primacy that he places on increased investment for academic R&D projects (Sivaram started out as a solar materials researcher) can seem repetitive and self-serving. I'd judge the weakest chapter to be the last one on policy solutions, which isn't framed so much as an area for potential innovation as one where we just need to put down more money (easier said than done). But this assessment could also be due to the fact that after 11 hours of listening, I was very ready for the book to be over! All in all, I'd recommend - correction, I already have recommended - this book as required skim reading for those working in energy issues, as it's a great primer on today's most relevant solar energy topics across a range of disciplines.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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pretty bland

a self discovery type narrative that is pretty monotone. I got this book for a research assignment and it could be summarized in the first chapter.

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essential solar history and future. A must listen

This is the best of all the many books I have listened to or read on solar energy/silicon cells and much more. I highly suggest this be critical and required reading by all students and scientists to appropriately assess the true bright future of solar and photovoltaic energy despite the challenges posed in the past.
This book is written in an easy to understand language so that total comprehension of the data does not depend on a scientific background.
Solar is more than ever our solution for pollution and global climate change as well as clean energy solutions.
I woud truly enjoy hearing more books by this author.

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Important, Comprehensive Details about Solar Power

Everything anyone might want to know about solar power is in this book. The science, the economics, the politics, and everything else about solar power are explained well. It's reasonably well written but a bit dry. The reader, though, could be a lot better.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • JPA
  • 01-16-19

Very, very informative.

Whether your interest is in solar energy specifically, environmental science, or simply technology and innovation, this is for you!