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Publisher Description

The first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, and all common energy uses.

“There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.”
—Bill Gates

In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density—the rate of energy flux per unit of area—is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.

Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions.

Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society—currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production—to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system.

Science & Nature
May 8
The MIT Press
The MIT Press

Customer Reviews

Eethie ,

Good read

It's a great book that covers the basic fundamental issues concerning energy sources, and how some energy prospects (such as biofuels) can be misleading. The fundamental takeaway from this book is that space matters. For example, you can't power an entire country on solar energy in the state we're in due to the fact that the energy density of production is so low you'd need every square kilometer of the entire country to be covered in PV cells.

What bothered me about the book is how overwhelming some topics can be. Where the point is made within a few sentences, key calculations can take up paragraphs, which can be challenging to go through. Some topics, especially that towards the end of the book, aren't explained in sufficient detail, and can leave you without questions solely due to the fact that you don't know how to process the overwhelming amount of information.

It's definitely not a causal Sunday read, but it brings up some good points that anyone in the industry of power generation can find relevant and helpful, especially government ministries responsible for shaping their country's future energy management. It's a great overview of the one parameter that can make or break potential renewable energy sources.

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