World demand for renewable energy will surely grow over the coming decades as economies transition away from fossil fuels. As physicists we have a responsibility to help our students and society understand the advantages and drawbacks of the many renewable sources that presently are and should soon become economically viable and how they compare to traditional fossil and nuclear sources. This text aims to bring renewable energy to junior-level physics students.

Robert Ehrlich, a well-respected teacher and elementary-particle physicist, has developed a class on renewable energy at George Mason University. Finding that most available texts were either too elementary or too advanced and narrowly-focused, he prepared this survey-level text. Although the subtitle A First Course might give an impression of “Energy 101,” this is not so: readers are expected to know introductory physics and calculus. Indeed, I found that there is virtually no area of undergraduate physics that is not...

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