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Dyed All Hues

Thinker and Experimenter,


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Solving the Energy Crisis; Solar Harvesting Satellites

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If a consensus is reached among world leaders, then the world would no longer need to fight over energy and hybrid cars will be more efficient! I think this would be super awesome! We should essentially pay nothing for this energy, but we might pay for the maintenance of this satellite staying in space.

Let's get started on this!

What do you think?

Updated: Thank you Theodore for the links.




Topics: Energy crisis
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    Oct 3 2012: I think it's the key to our future. Here's another link for you:


    All other 'sources' of energy (biofuel, oil and gas, even hydrothermal) can be traced back up the chain to it's solar origins. Solar power is unlimited and non-polluting. No other power type offers anywhere near the value.
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      Oct 3 2012: I completely agree! Solar Power is almost unlimited (or at least unlimited within our lifetimes and our children's lifetimes), but making so many individual solar panels is somewhat of a waste if people would just see the full potential to energy being produced on a full scale, like the solar energy harvesting satellite.
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        Oct 3 2012: Sorry I wasn't clear. I was referring specifically to solar power collected by satellites.
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          Oct 4 2012: Sorry on my behalf because I think I wasn't clear that I understood your point about the satellites. I was thinking how the material used to make solar panels are actually supposed to be harmful to extract from Earth and if we could just make a single satellite, then there wouldn't be so many little panels that need to be made.
  • Oct 21 2012: I admit I'm not convinced that SPS is a viable energy option in the urgent time frame the climate problem is presenting us. Even less convinced it's viable with ongoing unwillingness of mainstream politics globally (but especially within the USA) to confront the problem head on. The competition for R&D&D (and Deployment) resources already sees a relative pittance put towards crucial areas like utility scale energy storage. Existing energy providers have more interest in preventing such a requirement than enabling it.

    Given a choice of $US multi billions going towards exploring the SPS option or towards energy storage, I'd be choosing the latter; I suggest the technological barriers are fewer and more readily overcome, the results more readily mass producable and their deployment less contentious and problematical. As it is, even with the relative low levels of R&D investment, solutions are emerging. Such as this one claiming costs better than pumped hydro - http://www.isentropic.co.uk/ - (note that the $35/MWh looks like a typo and probably should read $35/KWh ; confirmed from other sources).

    Most of all I think that an ongoing sense of entitlement to energy cheap enough to allow extravagant wastefulness is, along with resistance to acceptance of the seriousness of the climate problem, an ongoing serious impediment to solutions of all kinds.

    Note - I had problems with this post (used html tags and lost half initial post). I added a second post as an add on, but changed my mind, deleted it and edited this post instead). Ken.
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      Oct 22 2012: This PHES is a new technology that promises to store much more efficiently than previous storage units, so I say if this development furthers, then it could potentially be combined with other future technologies, like solar or wind power according to: http://www.growthconsulting.frost.com/web/images.nsf/0/7B9CF0B5053E23726525775B0036301E/$File/PSJul10TI.htm

      So, I think it is a step in a more sustainable route, and could make new breakthroughs for new sustainable methods that may out date solar and wind energy. =)
      • Oct 22 2012: I wouldn't like to see those Big Ideas like Space Power Satellites dropped from all consideration. Something like a global grid, using beamed power, with or without orbital solar seems worthwhile to look into for longer term solutions. I suggested beaming power over and around because I think the scale of infrastructure for full orbital solar will be prohibitive. The smaller beamed power grid would still be huge, involving massive upscaling of space launch infrastructure and vehicles. It could be a compromise that might be more achievable. I don't know what the limitations of beamed power are and it could be that the transmission losses would make retransmission unworkable; I haven't encountered serious discussion along those lines.

        But I suspect it won't be the massive projects of that scale that give us our solutions, rather it will come from the accumulation of smaller (relatively) changes. Here in Australia the total of rooftop solar has far exceeded the capacity that's come from large scale dedicated solar farms, despite the latter's potential to include thermal energy storage. Rooftop solar has impacted the total supply sufficiently to cause some fossil fuel plants to be dropped. Wind has added a lot of global energy capacity without, so far, exceeding the capacity of grids to cope. There will be a point where they can't cope but it's not like this is a surprise. What is a surprise is the relative lack of R&D&D efforts to pre-emptively deal with it; grid operators here have resisted that kind of planning and investment and still appear to be working on the basis of future demand met by fossil fuels. The requirement to remake energy infrastructure to be low emissions is still being treated as optional. Worse, not doing so at all is being treated as the preferred option.

        I haven't looked in depth at Hoffert's efforts but I was impressed that he has not limited himself to championing a single, one size fits all solution.
  • Oct 15 2012: The first question that comes to my mind is - if it's feasible to beam power down from space, why can't we beam power up on one side of the planet and beam it back down someplace else? It's not lack of room or even solar costs (or costs of other intermittent renewable technologies) down here on Earth that is the constraint but the capacity to distribute it widely enough or store it cheaply enough. Still cheaper to have 4 or 5 times as much solar on Earth in best possible locations as the smaller equivalent in space, the scale of the project would be much smaller than full SPS but still enough to boost space programs enormously - which I suspect for many of the proponents is the primary intent - and we get a global energy grid.
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      Oct 21 2012: Hi Ken, what did you think of the 3 links that is under the field of "Updated" in my introduction/description? I feel that one of the links might answer your question, and if not I will try to answer it with my limited knowledge.
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    Oct 6 2012: You're either looking at reflecting more sunlight towards the earth, or transporting batteries into space, and back... Seems incredibly pricey.
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      Oct 6 2012: I don't know if the energy will increase global temperatures, but I do know that you face solar panels toward the sun and away from the place you are collecting solar energy for. The initial price is great, but if civilization plans to live beyond the depletion of fossil fuels, then I don't think it is all that pricey, though maybe other forms of renewable energies exist that can be researched and built upon our current knowledge.
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        Oct 7 2012: Well... Not to be too blue collar... but we could create a giant engineering project that employs millions of people building mirrors, and pointing them at that sky for that kind of money... Which I also think is a good idea. I like the spirit of this idea, and we'd probably learn new science trying to do it, like a NASA project... I'm just not sure it could do credible damage to our energy issues... Also, solar and wind concentration are in the works, the energy crisis as well as global warming are failing for a lack of consumer demand, combined with wage stagnation, and oil/coal subsidies and government propaganda..
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    Oct 4 2012: New York University Professor Emeritus of Physics, Martin Hoffert has been a great deal of research on this topic.

    Martin Hoffert, former chair of the Department of Applied Sciences at New York University, told members of the Capitol Hill Club in August 2007, that space solar power research and development can proceed with existing technologies.

    But the potential costs remain high, discouraging entrepreneurs and the government from investing in it. The major expense -- transporting equipment and materials into orbit aboard a space shuttle -- is $20,000 per kilogram of payload, or the carrying capacity of a space vehicle.

    Proponents of space solar power believe the project would become viable economically if the payload cost could be reduced to below $200 per kilogram, and the total expense of delivery and robotic assembly on orbit could be brought below $3,500 per kilogram.



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      Oct 6 2012: Very interesting. According to Martin Hoffert on the youtube video at the 4:40 min mark argues that space-based solar power is comparable in cost with land based and space based and the payload he said is $15,000 per kg. He is arguing that we should buy these technologies from other countries, like China or Russia and only then might it be applicable.When you mention "$200 per kg" that seems impossible within the next 100 years. The value of research toward these energies are highly important and governments should stop being enslaved by carbon based energy fuels. I think that in a projected cost benefit analysis, after having this space based solar energy, in addition to if people planned to live beyond the supposed depletion date of fossil fuels, then alternative energies should come first, and the campaign toward these alternative energy sources should be invested in, such as space based solar energies. I think this Martin Hoffert seems like he is on the frontier of a revolution. He's got my support.
  • Oct 4 2012: Hold on for a sec, there are still technical problems with beaming the energy to the surface and solar harvesting satellites would be very vulnerable to space debris.
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      Oct 4 2012: I believe if enough interest is put on this idea....there would be more funding and research put into this idea. The technical issue of beaming energy is still extremely new and I believe there was a documentary or show that highlighted that they are making progress. I watched this documentary/show and they successfully recharged a dead cell phone battery while it was still on the phone with beaming technology, but it had to be precise, I think...as for the space debris; I believe that all satellites are vulnerable to space debris, but that is a risk that I can take. We can always improve on already created inventions.
      • Oct 4 2012: These satellites are much more vulnerable than ordinary satellites because they have very large surface areas (the solar panels themselves).

        In theory an advanced civilization could be powered by solar panel satellites, but for us it will take a while and may end up assisting nuclear fusion and ground based solar panels.