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Satellite Solar Power

Posted by: JMS - Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:16 pm
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Satellite Solar Power 
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Post Satellite Solar Power   Posted on: Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:16 pm
Hi there, and as this is my first post here I just want to say that this is a really nice forum on a topic close to my heart!

Anyway, I came across this article which discusses the feasibility of launching satellites that capable of securing sunlight into orbit. :) ... sed-solar/

The concept of collecting sunlight in space and transmitting it back to Earth is not new. The first Satellite Solar Power System (SPS) was described by American scientist Peter Glaser in 1968. However, Japan is currently the only country with a focused solar power satellite plan.

What do you think? Is it too early for us to think space solar power (SSP) could be a key to our future energy needs?

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Post Re: Satellite Solar Power   Posted on: Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:00 am
You have unleashed the rantimator on yourself. :)

My short answer: Yes it is part of a repertoir of solutions we will need to address future needs of power of our civilisation.
No, it is not too early to start thinking about how to utilise the massive amount of space, and solar power we have pass by our planet constantly. Given enough technological prowess it would be actually quite dumb not to consider such technologies.

The key is diversity. The more methods we develop to support the operations of this supra-individual organism called the "human race" the better. :)

Relying on any single power source is extremely risky, plus also not really practical. They all have advantages and disadvantages.

Beamed solar power, or just beamed power in general could not only be useful on Earth but elsewhere like on the moon.

There are two aspects of this technology. One is the collecting the energy from the diffuse form of light coming from our star, the other is getting this power to where we need it for our activities.

Finding more and more efficient ways of utilising this massive fusion reactor we already have, is part of what we need to do anyway. These technologies would not only be essential in the orbital power stations, but also in ones placed down here or on other planetary bodies.

Transmitting energy over large distances efficiently is also something we need if we want to build industries in orbit. Certainly we could have the energy production right where we need it, but there could be constrains on how close we want or can have these facilities to our activities. So being able to beam power would be quite useful in those tricky situations when we cannot fit the power generation right next to consumption.

So I don't see why we shouldn't be looking into beamed solar power, it probably will be something used all over the solar system if we ever make it into a civilisation that widespread.

Now pair all of that with advances in nanotechnology and we could have solar power statites hovering over the poles /using solar radiation pressure to maintain orbit/ enabling us to inhabit the arctic or the antarctic. This makes global warming actually quite useful because it would free up land surfaces currently quite inhospitable. Though probably at the same time it would lead to other land areas become less hospitable so overall we might not get a net gain out of this fiasco. :)

Now certainly the drastic change in the climate would be quite traumatic for the biosphere leading to mass extinction and complete alteration of existent natural biomes, but it wouldn't be the end of life on this planet, and it also definitely wouldn't mean that the diversity we see couldn't be restored or maintained while this transition occurs.

I am hijacking this thread a bit to rant about global warming. :) The climate of this planet has always been dynamic. It responds to external changes like the change of the orbit, change of luminosity of our star, and it responds to internal changes like the complete chemical alteration of the atmosphere by photosynthesis.

The biological component of the biosphere responds to this over geological timescales, species change geographical distribution, they increase and decrease in diversity. Life has been through many drastic changes, what's happening now is only unprecedented because it is an intelligent species that is causing the climate to change.

This constant propaganda for halting or reversing climate change is misguided because the climate was never static to begin with. So really putting all these efforts into reversing our impact is pretty futile because to actually reverse our impact we would have to simply gett off the planet or kill ourselves. Probably even then the system probably won't get back to the same "equilibrium" it was in before. Not to mention that stoping the natural shift of the global climate is just as artificial as making it shift.

What we need to do is be aware of the changes, be mindful of how we impact the systems around us, control our impact instead of being completely ignorant of it, and respond to the changes we inevitably cause in these systems.

It is way easier to adapt to the environment than to change the environment on large scales. For instance we can try and control the intensity or trajectory of hurricanes, or redesign our living spaces to withstand such storms with no problem. I would always chose redesigning over constant meddling with atmospherical conditions. It probably would be way less expensive, and we don't have to worry about environmental impacts of moving storm systems around.

So the same goes for desertification, or increased frequency of floods, or wild fires or higher or lower precipitation etc...

Certainly we need to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere, but we can forget about the climate ever staying tha same in any region because that is not what climates do to begin with.

So the issue is and has always been is inadequate thought put into our adaptations to these changes, not how these changes could be stoped or reversed to meet our desires.

To be frank I am actually a little bit more worried about agriculture than the greenhouse gases we have been releasing. Certainly altering the climate makes it hard for species to adapt, but what makes it even harder for them to adapt is a bulldozer completely eradicating the areas they inhabit to begin with.

Agriculture is a major culprit in our environmental footprint but for some reason it isn't getting as much attention as other industries because it is probably the oldest industry and we have become oblivious to the drastic changes it leads to.

So I am actually dreaming about food production in orbit. :) Beamed solar power is great, but imagine if none of the landmass or the oceans of this planet is used up by artificial systems to produce our food, and we have all the oceans, rivers, wilderness areas apart from areas we use for habitation free to play in and explore. :)

The cost of such a future of course is = to the cost of becoming a "space faring civilisation". Insane amount of man hours spent on actual physical work, and thinking about how we could actually do it. /possibly with the aid of advanced AI sooner or later. :)/

Overall I think the future for Earth life is quite bright. Surely the biosphere will be completely altered by our activities one way or another /it already is/, but we mustn't forget that life does that to begin with, with or without intelligence being part of the equation. Also we are integrated part of the living system that inhabits this planet no matter what we do, so in all reality it has always been and always will be life altering itself and it's surrounding environment. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact it is part of what makes life, life.


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Post Re: Satellite Solar Power   Posted on: Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:44 am
box wrote:
You have unleashed the rantimator on yourself.


Hi JMS- welcome to this site/forum.

Space based solar power has long been either the holy grail or Don Quixote's dragon depending on your perspective. While elegant in concept, it has many technical and practical problems that have made it really out of reach and not really a viable "carrot" with which to push space activity, no matter how much it's advocates wish.

But, I can see the Japanese as being the ones with the most likely chance of making it happen. They have a high-tech industrial base with a mature aerospace industry. Their population and government will support such a plan and would be willing to fund it. AND most of all they are pretty desperate to find an alternative to the "heads they lose, tails they lose" energy delimma they find themselves in of having to rely on fossil fuels after turning away from nuclear power.

I wish them luck. The more mass to orbit, the more the cost to orbit flattens out.

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