Renewable Energy Handbook

When I saw the Renewable Energy Handbook by William Kemp for sale in the OpenSky store I was a bit skeptical of its value.  This is due entirely to my experience with a "free" book called Green Millionaire which has the sole purpose of taking people's money by offering the most basic of "green" tips (you pay shipping and handling for the "free" book and then they hit your credit card up with huge fees for their newsletter).  But after receiving a copy of the Renewable Energy Handbook I'm happy to say it provides extremely valuable information for those interested in off-grid living and residential renewable energy.

The book is written for those who have already mastered energy conservation steps (insulate, turn off lights, program thermostat, etc.) and are ready to start producing clean energy on their own.  This isn't meant to be a resource for renewable energy experts, but a guide for those interested in taking the next step and investing in a system that will produce clean energy.  I think the most helpful part of the book are the pictures, case studies and diagrams that show how the pieces of a clean energy system come together.

The new edition is Copyright 2009, and the author opens up his Preface with:

The first edition of The Renewable Energy Handbook was published in 2003 and dealt specifically with living life disconnected from the electrical grid: off-grid living

If the book has any flaws, it may be that there is not enough technical detail.  For instance, the section on solar pv electricity generation is only 13 pages long.  But I would say that this book is meant to be an excellent primer for those interested  in renewable energy.  I would suggest reading the book, deciding which form of renewable energy is going to best fit your needs, and then get a book or speak with an expert on that specific topic.  A book on a topic this expansive (renewable energy) makes it hard to go into too much detail on any one technology!

The author, William Kemp, is an engineer at a Canadian company that creates control systems for energy generating systems.  You can see an example of his writing and the style that is in the book by checking out his Off-Grid Primer paper.  He has another book titled Smart Power - An urban guide to renewable energy and efficiency that was written in 2004.  I also received a copy of this book for review.  At first glance of the material, it is hard to tell the difference between the two books, but Smart Power is more focused on energy conservation tactics where Renewable Energy Handbook is more of a how-to introduction guide to renewable energy.  If you are new to energy topics or you don't plan on installing a renewable energy system anytime soon, then you would probably want to go with Smart Power.

A few of the chapters of Renewable Energy Handbook include:

  • Heating and Cooling with Renewable Energy
  • Photovoltaic Electricity Generation
  • Electricity from Wind
  • Micro Hydro Electricity Production
  • Battery Selection
  • DC Voltage Regulation
  • DC to AC conversion using inverters
  • Putting it all together safely

Of most interest to me is the section on DC voltage regulation.  I think most people understand the basic of renewable energy (sun hits panels --> electricity, wind turns turbine --> electricity) but we often have trouble grasping some of the details of a residential renewable energy system, and it is books like this one that go over those details to help our understanding.

These books are some of the best I've seen on empowering individuals to save energy and produce clean energy since I wrote about Paul Scheckel's book, The Home Energy Diet on the Sustainable Books page.

If you are just getting into clean energy and energy conservation for your home my advice would be to read these books in the following order:

  1. Smart Power - A basic introduction to both energy efficiency , clean transportation, and producing renewable energy
  2. Home Energy Diet - In depth guide to saving energy in your home.  Learn how to live energy efficient before producing clean energy
  3. Renewable Energy Handbook - Now that you are saving all the energy that you do use, learn how to create clean energy on your own

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and lucky for you, you can buy it on the Mapawatt OpenSky store!  The book costs $25.  If you are serious about residential renewable energy, the time this book will save you researching these topics on the internet will be well worth the cost of the book.

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The title that Jack suggests would be misleading since the book not only covers solar and wind but microhydro, biodiesel, solar thermal, geothermal, etc etc.
The title of this book is horribly misleading. It should be called home-scale solar and wind power handbook. The topic matter is fine, and obviously of keen interest to an small, but important segment of the RE field, but it is not an RE Handbook.
ckmapawatt's picture
Jack, What do you think the book is lacking? What would you include in a Renewable Energy Handbook that this book doesnt have?

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