Book Review: Rooftop Revolution By Danny Kennedy

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Rooftop Revolution Book Cover

Released last fall before the US presidential elections, Rooftop Revolution, written by Sungevity CEO and former Greenpeace activist Danny Kennedy is a clear concise book on the potential solar energy has in advancing a sustainable economy that should please environmental activists and sustainability entrepreneurs alike.

Kennedy at the start explores the false pretensions the fossil fuel industry comes up with against solar (happily known as King CONG-Coal, Oil, Nuclear, Gas). In the prologue, Kennedy goes into detail on why fossil fuels are inefficient (namely blasting off mountain tops for coal), while causing extensive environmental damage. He also cites the very dangerous potential of oil rigs causing serious environmental damage, thanks to incidents like the BP oil spill in spring, 2010. While nuclear energy may have no carbon emissions, the problems with storage, waste, and the accident in Fukushima and Chernobyl, Kennedy suggests nuclear energy is a definite no go for a clean energy option.

Meanwhile, the author notes, 20 days of sunshine has the same amount of energy potential, than all of the earth’s natural gas, oil, and coal supplies. That is something that perhaps all countries should take heed of if they are looking to provide energy in an ever-increasing energy hungry appetite.

And it’s not just solar energy that is good for the environment but also good for the economy, also. Similar to the information technology revolution, The Rooftop Revolution, Kennedy believes solar can do the same to boost an economy that lost jobs from CONG industries. He points despite the massive profits CONG industries have made, they employ less than twice as many bodies in clean energy industries. Given the number of solar jobs increased by 13.2% in 2012, it’s no wonder why we are seeing such bullishness in the former Greenpeace activists hope for this emerging industry.

Kennedy believes ten things will occur to help the “Solar Ascent,” including:

  1. Lower prices
  2. Job opportunities
  3. The speed in which solar energy is growing
  4. Scalability
  5. Increased access (important for emerging markets to leapfrog CONG energy)
  6. Value
  7. Climate change concerns
  8. Popularity
  9. National Defense
  10. Evolution.

It’s these ten things plus his knack for storytelling, maturing from an activist to a premier clean-tech entrepreneur (Kennedy did his fair share of civil disobedience against fossil fuel organizations in his younger days) that makes you want to read this book. His belief, that while protest can work, being an entrepreneur and changing the world through private enterprise provides some very key lessons both environmental activists and business students should take heart.

There are some minor flaws with the book. They include: looking at the idea of how the natural gas boom will affect solar prices in the short-term. There is also Kennedy’s suggestions of China’s low cost solar manufacturing could irk some union people (despite helping to decrease costs of photovoltaic panels) detract some of the good points from the book.

Nonetheless, environmental activists, business people, cleantech geeks, and those who want to know how solar energy works should get this for their bookshelf.


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