Free book teaches DIY for solar energy

Despite its abundance on Earth, solar energy remains a largely underutilized natural resource. One Western professor is hoping to change that by teaching people how to harness their own solar energy – for free.

Joshua Pearce

Recently appointed Western University’s John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation, Joshua Pearce has co-authored a do-it-yourself (DIY) solar energy e-book with his long-time collaborator Lonny Grafman, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the founder of Appropedia – the leading sustainability wiki that anyone can edit.

Approximately 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously – that’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. Despite this, most recent data shows solar energy represents only about 0.5 per cent of Canada’s national electricity generation. “That’s not good enough,” said Pearce, one oxxf the world’s top solar photovoltaic technology experts.

To Catch the Sun is a free, open-source collection of stories about communities coming together to harness their own solar energy. The book is complete with in-depth instructions, itemized shopping lists and downloadable directions to design and build projects for work and home.

“Solar photovoltaic technology, which converts sunlight directly into electricity, has fallen so far in cost so far that it is now the most inexpensive method of producing electricity,” said Pearce, a professor at Ivey Business School and Western Engineering. “If you are a little handy, you can cut the costs even further by building your own systems and To Catch the Sun offers guidance on exactly how to do it.”

To Catch the Sun features design-and-builds for dozens of DIY photovoltaic systems, including:

• small home in a financially rich country

• few homes in a financially poor country

• school rooms and community spaces

• ‘zombie apocalypse’ survival tools

• laptop and cellphone chargers

• tiny home and van living

• glamping and backpacking equipment

• emergency supplies, like powering an oxygen machine during a power outage

• isolated loads, like electric gates, pumps, greenhouse fans, backup generators and telecommunications gear

To get a free digital copy of the book sign up at or order a paperback copy from your local book seller. All proceeds from paperback sales support the Appropedia Foundation to ensure the information is freely available and always up-to-date.

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