Neville Williams, Sun Power. Forge. 385 pages. Hardcover $27.99.
This fine, valuable book is at once the story of a personal journey and of a crucial industry. Though the fascinating story is complex, the author presents it with sharp-edged clarity. The lengthy subtitle says it all: “How Energy from the Sun Is Changing Lives Around the World, Empowering America, and Saving the Planet.”
Or, as the great George Harrison put it in his timeless love lyric, “Here Comes the Sun.”
For several decades, Neville Williams, a former journalist, has been at the forefront of the struggle to bring the transformative technology of solar electricity to the masses – indeed, to everyone. He has founded companies and non-profit organizations that have planted the seeds for a solar energy revolution across the globe. In Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, remote areas of China and Japan, Africa, and many other light-starved communities that the power lines never reach, the photovoltaic miracle has helped people leap from the kerosene-dependent nineteen century into the twenty-first.
In such places, affordable electricity has created a much higher standard of living, bringing new opportunities by which impoverished peoples can lift themselves up.
However, solar electricity should have a high priority everywhere, especially as the antidote to the continued nightmare of burning fossil fuels to create electricity.
Aside from being a clean technology that drastically reduces the carbon footprint wherever it replaces generators fed by coal or petroleum or natural gas (itself relatively clean), solar electricity is remarkably dependable. Furthermore, no one can control supplies (and thus prices) by hoarding sunshine.
For Mr. Williams, great frustrations have accompanied the growing number of successes in the solar electricity industry. He has tragic stories to tell about risk-adverse bureaucrats, many found at the World Bank, who seem to spend more time obstructing progress than assisting it.
Supposedly intelligent decision-makers keep asking about the costs of the distribution system when, in most cases, there is no distribution system and thus no distribution cost: the power plant (panel of solar cells) is on your roof, dummy, and it’s not burning anything and thus not fouling the air.
There have been – and still are – powerful forces at work to maintain our addiction to oil and related energy sources, whether imported or domestic. When vested interests are challenged, no amount of successful demonstration projects can change energy czars (public or private) into believers. The good news? Established energy companies large and small are finally hedging their bets by getting into the solar energy field in a big way. Perhaps, at last, they see the handwriting on the wall. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 25, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Sun Power