Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet
How solar could spark a clean-energy transition through transformative innovation—creative financing, revolutionary technologies, and flexible energy systems.
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—every hour the sun beams down more energy than the world uses in a year. 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, drawing on firsthand experience and original research spanning science, business, and government. Financial innovation is already enticing deep-pocketed investors to fund solar projects around the world, from the sunniest deserts to the poorest villages. 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.
A Council on Foreign Relations Book
Praise for Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet
The book is not gloomy. It lays out the history, promise, and pitfalls of solar technology with an easy-going lack of wonkishness. But it offers a sobering message that may be as prescient—and as readable—as Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance was before the dotcom and housing crises of the 2000s—The Economist—
The book is both the best available overview of where the industry finds itself today, and a road map for how it can reach that brighter future....
The first important policy book of 2018.
Foreign Affairs Best of Books 2018. Sivaram's enlightening and candid book describes both the enormous progress that has already been made in exploiting solar energy and the major obstacles to further progress.
Sivaram includes a raft of case studies, from current research on the photovoltaic materials called perovskites to Off Grid Electric, a start-up aiming to electrify swathes of Africa by 2019.
Taming the Sun is an even-handed untangling of a situation that can appear a mess of contradictions
—Engineering and Technology Magazine—