Solar power.... Yeah right
We all know its a death ray, Just admit it.
Billionaire Donald Bren was behind a quiet $100m donation in 2013 that established Caltech's Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP) in an attempt to harness solar power from outer space, the California private research university revealed this week. The real estate magnate was inspired by a 2011 article in Popular Science ( …
wouldn't the "beaming power to earth via RF" almost have to be a MASER?
The main advantage to collecting in space is that you don't have to worry about atmospheric attenuation. "Beaming" the power to ground stations will have to go through atmosphere, so you need an intensity/frequency that renders that attenuation significantly less significant, so MASER.
As a death ray perhaps.... gee look at our solar powered death ray.....zap.
But the core claim "works at night" won't work if it beams down to the daylight portion of the earth. Unless your collection and distribution points moves too, to stay under your death ray, so you're receving staion is always under your solar array on the daylight side of the planet!
Or suppose you have multiple receiving stations. Can you imagine, they turn it from Station 1 to Station 2, and since the transmitter and solar array are integrated, one and the same, you cannot turn it off, so you zap everything the path between the two stations?
But death ray! Totally makes sense.
Put it that far out and you've got the transmission loss. None of this makes sense except as a death ray.
It's not even worth making solar panels track the sun for most domestic setups, here on earth, its so damn cheap to just mount more panels.
If they actually want to do anything for solar, I would suggest pricing storage... like you can sell back electricity to the grid, price storage, so you can sell storage capacity to the grid. So people stick more solar on their roof, and sell the excess to the grid, and others store it for them.
if you do the math and factor in time of day/latitude, you may find that your terrestrial solar runs into "certain issues" regarding total energy production vs consumption
Just because you can slightly outmatch carbon sourced electricity generation with wind/solar doesn't change the factor that electricity production only accounts for 1/3 of carbon emissions and decarbonising the rest will need an increase in generation capacity (TWh/year) of between 4-6 times over existing carbon-emitting electricity generation
<blockquote>Put it that far out and you've got the transmission loss.</blockquote>
It already has to go through the entire Earth's atmosphere. Any extra distance is through empty space, which does not impose transmission losses... UNLESS you're assuming the designers are complete idiots and will use omnidirectional antennas.
<blockquote>None of this makes sense except as a death ray.</blockquote>
When death rays are outlawed, only outlaws will have death rays.
Death Rays also happens to be my favourite Italian restaurant... Just don't eat the chicken, no matter what Ray tells you.
> Asimov was describing it in 1941.
A lavish colour illustration depicting the receiving station of such a scheme was used as an advertisement for a company near me who are famous for their marine diesel engines. The advert was in, iirc, the brochure for the Festival of Britain 1951.
The copy was along if the lines of "In the future we may have energy beamed down from space. Until that time, you can rely upon the proven power of Lister diesel engines"
"Reason" isn't particularly a story about microwave power from space. It is a story about robots that are exhibiting unplanned behaviour and can't be corrected.
Wikipedia: "The situation seems desperate, as a solar storm is expected, potentially deflecting the energy beam, incinerating populated areas."
Enh, Russian plans to extend daylight and summer by just putting big mirrors in space to deliver sunlight at night, had the same feature... if you aimed several of the mirrors at a single place on the ground.
It might be cool if it really can be made to work though. There would have to be oversight about noting it into a death ray. Joking aside - I wonder how much would be lost in the microwave beam till it reaches the earth. I know next to nothing about any of this so it is pure speculation.
I think there will be three factors at play here; beam divergence, atmospheric attenuation, and collector efficiency.
If the beam divergence is kept low, and the collectors are wide enough to "catch" the whole beam, it’s not a problem. At the other end of the scale, if the transmission is omnidirectional, then the power drops off with the square of the distance.
Atmospheric attenuation depends on the wavelength used, the thickness of the atmosphere it will have to travel through (which will depend on the angle; directly above would be the lowest attenuation, and on the horizon the highest), and the weather - water vapour absorbs microwaves, to varying degrees, again depending on the wavelength, which is how a microwave oven works.
Collector efficiency is basically a measure of how much energy is captured by the receiver, which is effectively acting like an aerial. A quick google of the subject suggests that we can expect this to be better than 90%
So, judicious choice of wavelength, to avoid any major atmospheric absorption, and a well focused beam means it woudl hopefully be up to 90% transmission efficiency, which will be well above the actual efficiency of the solar panels themselves.
That judicious choice of wavelength probably matches one of the bands currently used by astronomers since low atmospheric absorption is pretty much the most important thing in both use cases. They will be delighted to hear that someone now wants to inject several GW of interference in that band.
I wonder how big the sidebands will be? Could this be the death of (terrestrial) WiFi as well?
On the subject of space and terrestrial radio interference...
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Or was that the name of Halle Berry's character - Diane Otherday.
I'm slightly remembering and swiping from something like a BBC radio "write your own James Bond plot" spot in which Tamara Neverdies showed up too.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" film has something similar, but I think it's the type of arrangement where a lot of sunlight is reflected onto a small, expensive electricity generating solar cell. But the power station also has its own solar ray gun... somehow.
What I had in mind was tax avoidance schemes like movie investments that generated artificial losses to gain tax relief.
There is plenty of room for that in a project like this, there is so many things that can go wrong and cause a loss without actually causing it if you know what I mean ;)
She's already accused Jewish millionaires of funding space lasers beaming the suns energy from space to start Californian wild fires.. what will she think when she hears a Jewish millionaire is funding something this space-sun-energy project?
> Collecting solar power in space and transmitting the energy wirelessly to Earth through microwaves
And if they do it
right wrong they will zap all the nacent constellations of thousands and thousands of internet satellites that the likes of Musk, etc. are spending $$$ billions on launcing.
90% efficiency? That would take a concentrated beam. What happens when, not if, something get too close? Birds? A curious hang Glider, A wayward plane?
Would it burn a hole through the clouds during storms? All satellite signals walk around a bit. How big would the dead zone around the receiver be? What of maintenance of the ground receiver? Can the transmitter be shutdown and powered up without too much hassle? What about making sure it stays off during ground maintenance? Where does the padlock go to ensure that some middle manglement dude doesn't power it up when people are on the ground working around the receiver?
One never hears the answers to questions like these. Like the carbon fiber space elevator, this sounds too much like pie in the sky.
It's overly complicated.
Option A) Roll out lots of low cost panels in deserts around the world. Dirt cheap to install. Easy to reach for maintenance. Cost of the panels approx $200/kW
Option B) put some expensive panels in orbit. SpaceX are currently charging about $1 million to launch 200kg. More for higher orbits. That's 200 sq m of panels, max power (solar constant x efficiency) a generous 400W/sq m, admittedly 24/7. Panel costs? They're going to be several times the cost of ground-based ones.
So cost for 1MW on ground about $200,000
Cost for 1MW in orbit - $12,500,000 in launch costs plus panel costs (another $1mn?). Yes, costs will fall, but a hundred-fold?
Generating 24/7 compared to maybe 10/7 doesn't offset that massive launch costs and extra infrastructure costs.
Agree, solar panels in space to provide power on earth is a definite R. Goldberg solution. Technically possible, but at a huge cost. Maybe if that space elevator gets built... naw.
The obvious solution to reliable, reasonably priced solar power is to add energy storage, and/or use solar energy to create "green" fuels for vehicles, neatly meshing the intermittent nature of solar with the energy density/power/recharge time problems of current BEV technology. Could even be batteries, but doesn't need to be the expensive Li-Ion type since weight and bulk are not as important for a fixed installation.
Sure, there are increases in cost if you add storage. But it's GOT to be cheaper than lifting solar panels into geosynchronous orbit, PLUS needing the collector/converter equipment on the ground.
A lot of deserts are not so easy to reach, and solar panels in deserts tend to get covered in dust, worn down by sandblasting, or buried quickly under shifting dunes. Temperatures also vary wildly from above 40°C during the day to below zero at night.
The big advantage of putting solar panels in space is that pretty much the only things you have to deal with are micrometeorites, and if you make them modular, you can probably easily cope with the odd module getting holed every now and then, and deal with the small loss of coverage that may result. The temperature of space is a constant, of a few Kelvin left over from the big bang, and the only source of heat is radiation from the sun, which you will be pointing at 24/7, so the panels will quickly reach thermal equilibrium. As another poster pointed out, things in geostationary orbit only get shade for at most 72 minutes at a time, so that's the only regular thermal stress they will be experiencing.
Compare that to having to regularly drive out into the middle of a desert in heat that will quickly kill you, to un-bury an array of panels to replace a load that have been blasted to shards by the wind, or failed from metal fatigue because the mountings are getting a daily 50°C temperature shift.
Option A) Roll out lots of low cost panels in deserts around the world. Dirt cheap to install.
Cheap to install the panels. Expensive to install a government that's going to prevent the power supply being held to ransom for political ends or being knocked out by jihadis.
One very real possible application is to use the tech to send power to... satellites.
Then when you launch your Shiny New Thing (hah!) it could omit the panels (and the machinery to deploy then), making more volume and mass available for payload.
A possible hybrid might be a system where the recipient spacecraft has enough on-board collection equipment to run it's own payload, but not enough to run a electrostatic engine. So when the craft needs to adjust its orbit, it "latches" on to the donor solar collector, moves around a bit, and returns to normal...
This all assumes that the collection equipment for this scheme is smaller/lighter than the conventional solar panels, but as I understand it, that's likely: you'd have a vast solar panel array in GEO, sending power to smaller craft in LEO.
Based on the linked article, some maths:
* 220 billion kilowatts (global energy need by 2030) = 220000 gigawatts
* 1 satellite yields 1 gigawatt
* assume 1 satellite : 1 receiver therefore 220000 receivers
* transmission beam is 60 feet wide, so we'll assume that's a diameter on a cylindrical beam
Based on this, we can assume that meeting the 220000 gigawatt power needs will require 220000 receivers, each covering 2827.4 sq ft (262.68 sq m). That's a combined area of about 14279.8 arces (57789.6 sq km). That's ever so slightly more than the area of Croatia.
That's a lot of government expropriation and materials investment.
You jest, I think, but putting the cheap bit in orbit and keeping the expensive stuff down here is probably a more practical solution, and the visible waveband is one of the ones that the atmosphere passes.
As an added bonus, we can see the beam, which might encourage people to get the pointing accuracy right before they start chucking a few GW down it.
There is a big difference between "good economical idea" and "infeasible project."
Beaming power down from space would have to be economical in comparison to building effective power plants on dirt. And honestly, a power plant Earth-side is still necessary, because the RF will still need to be converted to something the electrical grid can handle.
The conversion loss is significant. First, the solar energy must be converted to electrical energy, which is then used to power the RF transmitter. Then there is the transmission loss between space and ground. Then there is the conversion loss in the power plant. And of course, that power plant in space is going to need servicing.
So which is more economical? Taxing the shit out of excessive power usage to drive people to save power, (change your light bulbs, buy machines that can't run Crysis or mine Bitcoin), or tossing up power plants in spaaaaaaaaaace?
Yeah, but its highly-funded research at CalTech. I mean, what do they know? Yeah, sure, they're a fine organization for movie directors , but Einstein only taught there for three terms ...
Of course, they do run the oddly named "Jet Propulsion Laboratory", which seems to spend a lot of time playing with robotic non-jet-propelled vehicles, so I can't see what possible relevance space power could have for them....
Seriously, while it's a bit of a running joke that a university will research anything as long as you pay them to do so, CalTech can afford to be picky, and if they see something interesting in the field, the safe bet is that they aren't just indulging in a vanity project...
 Which is definitely not MIT
 Frank Capra
 On Mars
It's stupid and expensive compared to desert power generation. Big mirrors and steam might even beat photovoltalic.
Then make synthetic LPG with waste carbon.
Um, plot of Sahara?
The beam is a real issue. At best it's a cone with a huge spot on the ground. To avoid a massive dish in space you need maybe 100 Ghz to 400 GHz. Atmospheric adsorption is a problem. It's not scaleable to any sensibly small beam or big power. The power loss in generation of the microwaves is significant. A solar plant on the ground and big optical mirror in space is more sensible than this. This something for an SF story or a game like Sim City.
SF stories are NOT blueprints for future technology. Ursula Le Guin said they are entertainment, though some can have social comment or a warning.
I would rather that scientists and engineers got funding for *their* projects rather than taking funding to carry out billionaires' pet projects perhap mostly because the money is made available.
I read a great article about Katalin Kariko, the scientist who created the mRNA vaccine delivery system - she struggled for years in obscurity and without grant funding. Yet her work has been revolutionary.
The first contemporary description of the structure was by Olaf Stapledon in his science fiction novel Star Maker (1937), in which he described "every solar system... surrounded by a gauze of light-traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use".
This makes the global warming problem worse not better. Your increasing the surface area of collected sunlight. Every watt beamed from space now has to return to space via atmospheric convection and radiative loss. If we are already getting too warn effectively increasing the sunlight the planet absorbs will not correct that.
Volcanic heat and hydro in vast quantities and all pretty much free once the plant costs have been written down should mean that Iceland - and similar regions/countries around the world - could become significant hydrogen gas producers similar to the methane gas producing counties in the world we already depend on for much of our imported energy.
We already have the ships and we know how to build the terminals, perhaps we could persuade some billionaire that this makes more sense than sending up 1,000s of microwave ovens into space?
All we have to do then is convert 43 million gas boilers to run on hydrogen and find a way of keeping the pesky stuff confined within our existing gas networks.
I know it's been said here already, but I'll say it again.
The people who are pushing this are doing so because it sounds so nifty. But given the cost of getting a big solar array into orbit, and going up there to do maintenance, repair or expansion on it, it is far cheaper just to put the damn' thing on the ground, where people actually need the power, and where the storage for nighttime or peak-load demand can be sited.
I cannot believe that people are even still discussing this boondoggle.
The flipside being it can stay in the sun 24/7, the solar collection doesn't suffer from atmospheric attenuation, and it doesn't have to fight the weather (meaning less wear and tear). As for getting the energy back down, it can be focused into wavelengths that minimize attenuation and can penetrate cloud vover.
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