Brilliant! follows the social and technical history of sustainable energy from the solar experiments of classical civilizations, through the industrial revolution, to 21st century’s array of solar projects, wind farms and biofuels refineries.
The special focus of this book is the social context and motives of engineers and proponents, including the hope of staving off coal and oil shortages; rebuilding agricultural economies; improving national security; and protecting the environment, especially in the relatively recent context of climate change.
Although the reality rarely lived up to the rhetoric, sustainable energy systems often turned out to have surprising value and resilience. For thousands of scientists, inventors and backyard engineers, the fascinating technical promise of sustainable energy endured, providing continuity to the many of visions of a sustainable future.