"Going with the Flow, Small scale water power", by Billy Langley and Dan Curtis is a guide designed to help people decide if the river they are considering is suitable for hydropower. It is a Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) publication and CAT have a good record of demonstrating renewable energy projects as well as teaching others how to do it for themselves. While this 149 page book certainly achieves the above objective the more technically minded reader will find it a bit short on technical details, but there is plenty for the lay reader with an interest in hydropower. It delivers a well written and balanced perspective with the first 6 chapters introducing water power and then explaining the various technical aspects. Chapters 7 and 8 cover the legalities and the economics and chapter 9 is about commissioning and maintenance. Finally chapter 10 explores less common ideas such as using a water pump as a cheap turbine.
The situation with renewable obligation certificates, grants and feed-in tariffs is changing very quickly so the book, published in 2004, is already out of date, but this sort of thing varies a lot between countries so local research is always going to be required. Water wheels were built by the thousand in Europe and were an important part of the economy for hundreds of years. Cheap fossil fuels were more convenient so nearly all the mills were allowed to decay but there is now a revival of interest. Modern technology means the power in our rivers can be used once again while only causing minimal disruption of the local environment. I share the authors' enthusiasm for the subject and look forward to seeing small scale water power springing up along the rivers once again through the restoration of old mills and installation of modern facilities.
The theme of "The new Noah" is that us humans are making a mess of the planet and that we will soon be running out of many essential supplies. Peter Dawe believes that this will cause the destruction of much of what we value and that we therefore need to take steps to protect it. This modestly sized book (183 pages) starts by examining the evidence for a coming climate crisis and the lack of effective response to this threat. Dawe then goes into some detail about the futility of the efforts we have so far made to combat global warming. He then suggests some tactics to protect ourselves against the coming dangers ending with a brief outline of his ambition for a Wash Tidal Barrier.
This Wash Tidal Barrieir is a plan to protect an area of low land around the wash which is between Norfolk and Lincolnshire in England. The farmland in this area is presently very productive but in eminent danger of being flooded by the sea. He claims, and I tend to agree, that this barrier would be far more efficient than simply making the existing sea defences higher. It has the additional advantage that it could be used to generate something like a Gigawatt of renewable energy (enough for over a million homes).
Although Dawe's book is a good source of commentary on the climate crisis I found it unnecessarily pessimistic. He sees no possibility for a moral revolution like the one I promote on this site. He also has unfounded worries about us running out of metals. People worried about this a lot in the 1970's and were proven wrong because metals do not leave the planet once used. We just need to recycle more and find ways to extract the stuff from inferior ore bodies; which we have succeeded in doing so far. I did my first degree in a department specialising in this so I am confident to say there is little danger of us running out of any metal although temporary price spikes are likely.
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