Book Review: Danny Kennedy, Rooftop Revolution

I just bought the Kindle version of Danny Kennedy, Rooftop Revolution, How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy – and our Planet – from Dirty Energy. I found this over Twitter. Someone retweeted this from the book’s twitter feed:

 #Fact: 1,000 sq miles of solar would power the whole USA. The oil & gas industries use 10x that. @bruneski

I enjoyed reading this book. The author is clearly enthusiastic about the subject, and knows a lot. I learned several new facts.

One interesting point he makes: Fossil fuel is also solar energy, though used in a “laughably inefficient way”. I agree with that assessment. The inefficiency is masked by the fact that humanity is using the resources stored in millions of years in one year. But if anybody tried to produce fossil fuel from scratch the way nature has been doing it for us, they would quickly learn that waiting hundred of millions of years for your vast forests to be converted does not make a convincing business model.

I liked the chapter about leading and inspiring people in the field of solar, some of whom I already had noticed. But not all of them. I would recommend including some information on Masayoshi Son in the next edition.

In that chapter, I was especially interested in hearing about Solarmosaic. They are in the process of setting up an interesting crowdsourcing model for solar projects. Their website says they are now working with the Securities and Exchange commission on their business model.

I already noted the interesting fact that 10 percent of the land used by the fossil fuel companies would be enough to generate all of the electricity for the United States (the object of the tweet above). I didn’t know that.

I didn’t know that the IEA expects 12,000 GW of solar PV capacity in 2060. However, Kennedy writes that present installed capacity is around 50 GW world wide, which is not correct now. Maybe he wrote that part of the manuscript earlier, when it was about right. Capacity was already 67,4 GW at the end of 2011, with total world wide production of about 80 TWh in that year.

I learned that Hawaii still generates more than 90 percent of its electricity from oil, which makes it an easy target to get blown out of the water by the competition from solar.

I learned that solar has grown faster than the Internet since 1992, with 30,000 percent to 29,000 percent. That’s not bad as a record.

I didn’t find many typos either. One is in the first sentence about Sven Teske, where it says “is German friend”, with the “a” missing, another at location 1806 where it says “polices” instead of “policies”.

At location 350 Kennedy writes that Germany now gets a whopping 20 percent of its power from clean, sustainable energy. Actually, it is already 25% for the first six months of 2012.

Kennedy has founded a company, Sungevity, that is trying to get solar panels cheaper and with less hassle to American costumers. I recall blogging about the still high costs of American solar compared to Germany.

The biggest chunk comes from costs of the supply chain. American costumers pay about as much for that as for the solar panels. In contrast, the supply chain costs are almost invisible in Germany.

That of course means a big chance for someone to reduce these costs. I hear the Americans have access to the Internet and a large pool of very talented people interested in setting up a business. Why can’t someone get those solar panels delivered at about 20% of the present lavish cut the supply chain is getting?

From what I understand from reading the book, Sungevity is trying to do exactly that.

What I found missing was a discussion of the new antidumping tariffs for Chinese solar panels, a question not without impact on the United States solar market.

Anyway, I think this is required reading for anybody interested in energy issues, and in solar in particular.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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