The author of The Boom, “the best all-around book yet on fracking” (San Francisco Chronicle), turns his attention to renewable energy pioneer Michael Skelly, whose innovations, struggle, and persistence represent the groundbreaking changes underway in American energy.
The United States is in the midst of an energy transition. We want to embrace renewable energy sources like wind and solar and rely less on dirty fossil fuels. We don’t want to keep pumping so many heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. A transition from a North American power grid that is powered mostly by fossil fuels to one that is predominantly clean requires a massive building spree—billions of dollars’ worth.
Enter Michael Skelly, an infrastructure builder who began working on wind energy in 2000, when many considered the industry a joke. Eight years later, Skelly helped build the second largest wind power company in the United States—which wassold for $2 billion. Wind energy was no longer funny; it was well on its way to powering more than six percent of the electricity in the United States.
In Superpower, award-winning journalist Russell Gold tells Skelly’s story, which parallels our nation’s evolving relationship with renewable energy. Along the way, we meet Skelly’s financial backers, a family that pivoted from oil exploration to renewable energy; the farmers ready to embrace the new “cash crop”; the landowners prepared to go to court to avoid looking at spinning turbines; and utility executives who concoct fiendish ways to block renewable energy. Gold also shows how Skelly’s new company, Clean Line Energy, conceived the idea fora new power grid that would allow sunlight in Arizona to light up homes in cloudy New Hampshire, and even take wind from the Great Plains to keep air conditioners running in Atlanta. Thrilling, provocative, and important, Superpower is a fascinating look at America’s future.
Russell Gold has reported on energy regularly in The Wall Street Journal since 2002. His coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The author of The Boom and Superpower, he lives in Austin, Texas.