Ken Fabian

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Ken Fabian
Posted almost 3 years ago
Solving the Energy Crisis; Solar Harvesting Satellites
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.
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Ken Fabian
Posted almost 3 years ago
Solving the Energy Crisis; Solar Harvesting Satellites
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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Ken Fabian
Posted almost 3 years ago
Solving the Energy Crisis; Solar Harvesting Satellites
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.