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Book Review: Alternative Energy Demystified by Stan Gibilisco

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As a member of a family that has lived off-grid for the better part of three years — heating with wood full-time, using a solar/wind/generator combination to provide for our electrical needs — I’m always keenly interested in titles that promise insight into the world of alternative energy. With a title like Alternative Energy Demystified one might expect to encounter an ecologically oriented volume that praises the benefits of existing and groundbreaking alternative energy sources. Based upon that premise, a reader would be bound for disappointment.

Alternative Energy Demystified could perhaps better have been titled Energy Demystified as it covers all methods of heating, propulsion, and electricity generation. Designed as a self-study manual with end of chapter open book quizzes, and a closed book final exam, the concise, objective entries of an incredible range of technologies, and comprehensive index also lends itself to use as a reference work.

From the traditional and widely used oil and gas through to the rarefied and exotic magnetic levitation and ion rockets, there’s a little bit of everything here. The standard alternative energy giants — wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal etc. — are also included, but are given no more emphasis than any of the other technologies discussed. Each technology or method of delivery is given a two or three page description along with any requisite mathematical formulas and conversions necessary to understanding the topic being discussed.

Being more practically oriented, and usually looking for practical hands-on details to implement on our own homestead, this title doesn’t exactly fit the bill for us. There are no in-depth discussions, no installation details included, nor suggestions for specific set-ups. There are basic, generalized diagrams that provide some sense of how a real-life system might operate are included for every method discussed.

Author Stan Gibilisco is rather conservative in his writing, playing it safe as it were. For example, in the section concerning heating with wood stoves he recommends that anyone operating a wood stove wear fireproof clothing and protective gear at all times. Living in central Alberta where the mercury dips dangerously often has us filling the stove every two hours. To any experienced wood stove users, this suggestion sounds pretty silly.

Still, anyone looking to bone up on some of the basic details of various energy sources will be well served by Gibilisco’s work. Perhaps you’re just curious, or are in the initial stages of evaluating which energy sources will best fit your needs in a specific situation, in that case Alternative Energy Demystified might have the information you need to start down the road of deeper research. On the other hand, if you’re a general interest reader, you’ll certainly be able to impress your acquaintances with a broad, diverse understanding of the energy sources available today.

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