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Solar power from the moon

Off the shelf technology that can bring today's USA level of energy to 10 billion people around the world. A $600billion dollar initial investment 15 year timeline and we are generating revenues which will complete project in 30 years.
Build solar collectors on moon, microwave energy to antenna around the earth.
Idea Developed over past 35 years by
Dave Criswell, Phd, UH Lunar google solar power from moon.
Benefits:
Increase wealth around the world by bringing high level of energy
Stop carbon emissions
Clean up the enviroment
No need for massive distribution lines

  • Jun 5 2012: I remain bemused by how persons with little experience in performance-based engineering and fiscal responsibility believe that marginal/hypothetical technologies unimplementable on Earth are suddenly going to work flawlessly when transported a quarter million miles away at $100,000 per kilogram. The production of metallic titanium and silicon requires the integration of an immense industrial infrastructure, which is why it took human civilization 30,000 years from when copper was first being fabricated to manufacture the first gram of ductile titanium. The Earth and its moon have similar chemical compositions (remember the Earth’s crust is where the moon came from) so it should be a simple task to go to your back yard and mine titanium and silicon and refine them with the aid of all the Earth’s modern industrial infrastructure available to you via United Parcel Service at < $10 per kilogram. Allow for some Earth-bound inefficiencies, say 0.001%, and you’re still way past financial par with lunar siting. Everyone has the technical and resource capabilities to acquire energy wealth and self-sufficiency entirely from materials indigenous to their own back yards but for the difficulties and uncertainties of implementing the mature technologies for refining and processing the necessary silicon, iron and titanium. Or if they can’t handle it, maybe ask someone else to chip in a half a trillion dollars or so and move to the moon?
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      Jun 5 2012: ugh, uhm, sorry, but this conversation is not about mining the moon. it is about building solar panels or other space based infrastructure on the moon.

      so your logic does not apply. because sure, we can build a satellite down here, on earth. but we need it in orbit. and it is in fact cheaper to get to orbit from the moon, provided that we are already there. for this reason, such a project is profitable with a zero interest rate. the only question is whether anything remains from this profit if we introduce some discounting as we should. especially compared to other alternatives.
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        Jun 5 2012: If you're not going to mine and manufacture on the moon the everything will need to be manufactured on Earth, so putting it into Earth orbit would be much cheaper, rather than dragging it all the way to the moon. Look up Lagrangian points, they are the only practical sites for solar arrays in space as the beam comes from a geometrically stationary point.
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          Jun 5 2012: 1. i didn't say we won't mine on the moon in this approach. i said the conversation is not about that. the conversation is about doing something on the moon, so it is cheaper to mine moonstuff locally, as opposed to carry earthstuff there. mining is not the goal, but the mean.

          2. no it would not be cheaper to deliver from earth, as the earth is deeper in the gravity well and we have atmosphere. if we have a mine on the moon, getting stuff in earth orbit from the moon is cheaper then from the earth.

          3. i won't look up lagrangian points, for i know very well what they are. and they are not particularly good for solar power plants, being too far. actually, a low to mid earth orbit or a sun sync orbit would be way better. just to inform you, lagrangians don't seem to be fixed from the surface of the earth, due to the rotation. for a stationary point, you need a geostationary orbit. it also has advantages, so might be a good solution too.
      • Jun 6 2012: My bemusement remains unabated. This sky pie mythical/unproven power generation and transmission technology must be built with real materials and real hands in order to be demythologized. This could be envisioned with $100,000 per kilogram delivery costs and unimaginable working conditions to attain unitary efficiency at a lunar/LaGrangian/geosynchronous site, or with < $10 per kilogram delivery costs where my employees can go home for lunch and water their lawns while still giving us a completed energy project on the ground demonstrating a somewhat lower efficiency. Which option would you invest all of your pension funds in?
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          Jun 6 2012: please do note that i never claimed the proposed solution would be feasible, and i listed my complaints in my own comment below.

          but your arguments were faulty, and i pointed it out. the idea indeed can have advantages over earth launched space based solar plants. it does not mean, however, that it is economically preferable. and especially does not mean that we don't have other, much better solutions.

          but if not for energy production, it can be a right approach for other ends. for one, if we really want to begin space exploration on large scale, we need forward bases. we need space stations on different locations around the earth, on LEO, on GEO, on lagrange points, etc. and these forward bases are best resupplied from the moon if possible.

          for more information:
          http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_stone_explores_the_earth_and_space.html
          relevant part is the third part of the talk
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    Jun 6 2012: It doesn't matter how far the beam travels if its a maser. You would use geostationary relay satellites. The beam from L1 tracks the satellite which is tracked from Earth. Its still much simpler than tracking a beam from the moon. The main advantage of using halo orbits around L1 is that the array is in constant sunlight. This can't be achieved on the moon or in geostationary or any other orbit except sun-sync and they're really hard to track. And I did say lagrangian points were geometrically stationary not completely stationary.
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      Jun 6 2012: (edit: first paragraph was a mess. rewritten)
      even the most coherent beams have some spread, and by the time it hits the earth, it will be wider than the entire planet. if you can manage to focus it, you still have to track the receiver, as it would move together with the surface of the rotating earth. also, such a device is more expensive. and we need to take maintenance costs into account, which increases with distance.

      an inclined high earth orbit also has the advantage of being in almost constant sunlight. a sun synchronous orbit has constant exposure. these are superior to a lagrange point simply because they are closer.

      and the geostationary orbit has the advantage of having a fixed position on the sky. both arrangment has advantages and disadvantages. L points do not.
  • Jun 4 2012: REALLY not worth the time thinking about! Yet.

    Try investigating LFTR technology and you'll find a much better option for the same cost.
    http://www.itheo.org/articles/china-announces-thorium-energy-project

    $600billion would cover a lot of our needs using Earthbound LFTR technology, possibly with spare change and without launching any rockets into space with a payload cost of $10k+/kg ...
  • May 9 2012: Was anyone else reminded of Clarke's "The Time Oddyssey" trilogy? Couple of things:

    @Peter: "People are concerned that the .25w microwave transmitter in your cell phone might give you cancer. A 500gigawatt beam from space might make people nervous."

    Fair enough. I wonder though, could we build the receivers in relatively remote deserts/tundras? Nearly every continent has one...also, a lagrangian orbit is probably the best bet, yeah? No need for occasional trajectory readjustments (reducing the payload slightly, I imagine)

    @Krisztián: "[It's a]huge cost. with satellites, every gram of material needs to be carried up[...]a large amount of initial transfer is needed. compared to a 1-2 ton satellite weight, a moonbase requires probably tens of thousands of tons carried to a much larger distance."

    Right you are, which I imagine is why the space race is focused on tourism over industry right now. What I really hope is that this guy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leik_Myrabo
    makes a breakthrough real soon. If he does, we're all going to be doing the moonwalk for pennies on the dollar!

    Mining makes the most sense for the moon, here's some layman's specs on the regolith: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rocks#Classification

    I know, right? We could have macbook pros built of moon titanium and moon silicon! Bet they'd work better too.
    • Jun 4 2012: Ti and Si are really quite abundant on Earth still... I think potential is mainly KREEP and in that the most important aspect is the REEs.
      That said, moon mining is still ridiculous because there is absolutely no need for it, and even when/if there is: the economic justification will continue to delay it.
      If I am wrong then give me one concrete example where there is a need for moon mining and then I'll talk to one of the biggest mining companies myself.

      As far as I am aware NO mining companies are even remotely interested...
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      May 9 2012: I see two major problems
      1) As pointed out by the author the 12cm band is widely used for radio, cell phone and broadcast television. It's used for this purpose because the air is transparent to it. We can't just move these transmissions to another wavelength.
      2) The moon is not stationary in the sky. The rectennas would have to track the moon. This means the path of the microwave beam would be constantly changing. The interference caused to satellites and aeroplanes navigation systems would be diabolical. Even if you used relay satellites in geostationary orbit to stabilies the beams from Earth perspective, the Moon's orbital plane doesn't line up with the equator so thetransmitters on the moon and the antennae on the satellites would have to constantly track and switch from one path to another as the satellites are eclipsed by the Earth.
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    May 6 2012: why the moon? why not satellite on low earth orbit?
    • May 6 2012: cost, mostly. Satellites use fuel to stay in orbit. Plus, we can put massive "fields" of solar panels on the moon and not have to worry about keeping them afloat.

      Finally, there's maintance. By placing them on the moon, we potentially have a cheaper solution to maintance than with satellites; moon colonies. Work out deals with maintainers similar to the military's TDY's-go up for six months to a year, then come back. As colonies get better/more self sustaining, we may be able to all but stop shipment of goods/equipment up. We'd have to keep doing that for as long as the satellite existed.

      Just my thoughts...I'm studying to be a psychologist, not an engineer, so I could (and probably am) completely wrong.
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        May 7 2012: When there is a new moon it is because the side that is lit up is facing away from the earth. Also the moon moves all the time making it difficult to get the energy back to earth. Sattelites in geostationary or langrangian orbits would be much simpler. Also satellites in orbit dont use fuel. There is no engine keeping the Earth in orbit around the Sun. In any case the problem is retrieving the energy. People are concerned that the .25w microwave transmitter in your cell phone might give you cancer. A 500gigawatt beam from space might make people nervous.
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        May 7 2012: i did some research on the guy's idea. here is the essence:

        the benefit is all the materials that we don't need to lift from earth to space, which is a huge cost. with satellites, every gram of material need to be carried up. with a moonbase, a specific amount need to be delivered, but then, the mining takes place on the moon, so no more transfer needed.

        to achieve this, on the other hand, a large amount of initial transfer is needed. compared to a 1-2 ton satellite weight, a moonbase requires probably tens of thousands of tons carried to a much larger distance.

        problems.

        1. maintainability. i doubt that you can make a self sustaining base. some food delivery and/or fine materials will be required still. the moon being 300 times as far, the cost can be greater than launching the satellites themselves.

        2. the initial investment is so huge, it is really a blind shot in the dark. if a cheap energy source is discovered in the meantime, which is likely, the project is a bust economically.

        3. why human crew? we get to the point where machines could do everything, and they don't need air, food, high temperature and such expensive stuff.

        4. placing the mines on the moon is one thing, but placing the solar array there is another. why bind the two together? automated mines/factories could manufacture and assemble machine parts, and launch them to earth orbit using mag-rail. then the satellites could be finished in earth orbit. it is also possible to mine hydrogen and oxygen on the moon, so fuel can also be provided.