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Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology
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Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  81 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Few today realize that electric cabs dominated Manhattan's streets in the 1890s; that Boise, Idaho, had a geothermal heating system in 1910; or that the first megawatt turbine in the world was built in 1941 by the son of publishing magnate G. P. Putnam--a feat that would not be duplicated for another forty years. Likewise, while many remember the oil embargo of the 1970s, ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Da Capo Press
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Michael King
May 11, 2014 Michael King rated it liked it
Definitely an interesting topic, this book charts the surprisingly long history of green energy and explains how we got to where we are today. While it contains a lot of interesting background on early attempts at wind energy, solar power, and electric vehicles and at times succeeds in showing how certain technologies rose and fell over the decades, often for reasons unrelated to cost, efficiency, or overall benefit to society. That said, the author's writing can sometimes seem disjointed, repet ...more
Magnus Barber
Mar 03, 2014 Magnus Barber rated it really liked it
This turned out not to be the book I thought it was going to be. From the descriptions, I thought it would be a romp through amusing Victorian engineering attempts at green power that ultimately failed. Although there certainly were some interesting old engineering ideas (and not all failures), that's just the beginning of the book. It really buckles down and goes to great lengths talking about wind, solar and nuclear power in the US from the 1960s onwards - engineering challenges, politics, fac ...more
Mar 24, 2013 Ilya rated it liked it
Shelves: energy
There is nothing new about using renewable energy other than hydropower in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of wind-powered pumps went up through the American West in the second half of the 19th century, pumping out water for irrigation. Two decades before the Wright brothers, a windmill engineer ran thousands of experiments in a wind tunnel, and came up with a superior windmill design; his employer is still in business. The first megawatt-scale wind turbine in the world went up in Vermo ...more
Madrigal's book in my opinion was just OK. I did read it to the end but it took a bit of patience to do so. It is basically a broad history of renewable energy and its development within the United States. There is a single mention of Denmark and it's powerful wind turbine producing industry but other than that it is extremely US-centric.

Furthermore it is mostly a historical book with few if any technical explanations regarding the technologies it describes. More analysis of the development and
David Bruns
Aug 21, 2012 David Bruns rated it really liked it
I saw Alexis Madrigal speak at a renewables conference at the Univ of Minn and bought his book on the spot. The book is an eclectic collection of historical examples of renewable projects (what Madrigal calls "green technology") and a look toward what might be.

What seems at first like a random walk through "green" history, ends up in an interesting place: most of what we consider to be cleantech today - solar, electric vehicles, wind power - are not new technologies. They were all put into commo
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Powering The Dream The History and Promise of Green Technology by Alexis Madrigal

This is a history of alternative energy technology. It is a story of failure as much as it is a story of success. We learn that the ideas behind green technology are not new. There are many historical examples of early green technology in this book. For example, an attempt to build a 1 megawatt wind turbine was done in 1951. We also learn that many of the failures are not about the technology. It is as much about po
Mar 23, 2011 Justin rated it it was amazing
If the future of clean energy technology hopes to successfully enable our society's transition away from fossil fuels it will have to remember all the moments when a more perfect power stood poised to usurp a constant flow of coal and oil only to find itself denied the spotlight. The American story is one of a philosophy reinforced through access to cheap energy and burgeoned by technological innovation. In Powering the Dream, Alexis Madrigal provides a conscience for the green energy sector, on ...more
Filipe Dias
Apr 10, 2015 Filipe Dias rated it really liked it
Browsing through centuries worth of the process of generating work from renewable and non-renewable resources, gives a wider point of view on this essential requirement of civilization. The purpose is to give an overview of the difficulties and ingenuity developed from small scale needs to world networks, why it is how it is and how our life is dictated by and how we understand what energy means to us.
It is however very US-centric, which limits its appeal and usefulness.
Aug 15, 2011 Randi rated it really liked it
Loved learning how some of our "new," green technologies aren't really new at all. This book provides a great history of milestones in solar and wind power and gives you a clear understanding on how the initiatives from the Carter and Nixon administrations failed in later years. The only problem I have with books dealing with green technology are that they can quickly become dated. But this one provides enough of a history that I don't think it'll be a problem down the road.
Pretty neat social history of energy technology successes and failures in the US. This book real drives home the point that most of these energy decisions were not based on technological (dis)advantages, but rather on larger social and political situations. Fun and enjoyable read.
Read to help prepare myself and students for 2014-15 Academic Decathlon program. Has some good information, but not as solid as the first couple of books I read on the subject.
May 28, 2013 Jay marked it as unfinished
As with most of the books that I read in my History of Energy course in Spring 2013, we didn't read the entirety of this book, and I was unable to finish it before I was forced to part with it.
Jonathan Hiskes
Jan 19, 2012 Jonathan Hiskes rated it liked it
Brings historical perspective to a field that needs it. And gave a good anecdote for my wave-energy feature (
Science For The People
Recommended on Skeptically Speaking show #90 on December 17, 2010.
Jan 08, 2012 Max rated it liked it
definitely some enlightening facts but also some redundancy. Not quite finished so I'll finish the review later.
Oct 23, 2011 Lullalm rated it it was amazing
A great summary of the history of newable energy - a much older and varied history than I had anticipated.
Mar 06, 2013 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good historical information. The concluding section is interesting, but should have been stronger.
Ronan O'Driscoll
Aug 18, 2012 Ronan O'Driscoll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good take on green technology. Particularly liked the lessons from the past.
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