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  1. #31
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    This technology has always amused me, ever since I first heard about it (I actually think it was the old Simcity LOL).

    I am curious as to how your thoughts have changed over time.

    I'm still with Ptgatsby on this particular technology. At the moment, I'm not convinced it is going to be cost effective. I know power generation technology traditionally discusses concepts like efficiency and power density, but how important are these factors really? Given the huge amount of solar energy that falls on the earth, we don't actually need such efficiency, unless we want to sustain very high populations (upwards of 200 billion by my crude estimates).

    In terms of solar, I am increasingly interested in the claims (cost effectiveness) made about solar thermal.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_energy
    Of course I know a few people working on solar cell technology too, but I see that more applicable to distributed applications.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Yes, the manufacture of one solar panel will cost more than the manufacture of many, generally speaking (though at the scales we're talking about, even that is probably not true. There are reasons why silicon wafers aren't giant, you know.)
    Either way, the rocketry aspect is a major cost, along with maintenance. (how fragile is this technology vs space debris?)

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Who says we have to replace current coal or Nuclear power plants?
    And a few years later, we have the Fukushima disaster and carbon taxes being implemented. The result is certain governments planning the phase out of nuclear and coal power generation.

    Of course I don't see these technologies going away in the near future, considering the projected energy demands with the substantial economic growth projected into the future.

    What place do people see for these alternative technologies (including fission) in the intermediate future?

  2. #32

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    You may be surprised to learn that my thoughts haven't really changed that much on this subject. But I can see all the communication mishaps we had, that lead, essentially, to ptgatsby and me talking around each other. I was thinking big picture, and he was thinking from the perspective of an individual making an investment decission.

    The basic points I was making were more economic than scientific. I'll see if I can be more articulate this time.

    1) Investment in research (or risk ladden investment of any type) is not (and should never be) an "all eggs in one basket" type of investment. I was not saying, "pump all your money into this idea", because I would not say that about any idea. But I believe it is an idea that is inevetable based of the the trajectory of human history.

    2) I was thinking really long term (almost in "forever" terms). At some point, human beings will run out of land on Earth. Transmission of power through space and atmosphere become imperitives at that point in human history. At some point much earlier than that, space "real-estate" will be cheaper than real-estate on Earth. Keep in mind we need land to generate our food, and to live on, not just for our energy. Deep Sea terraforming may help with that, but even that is limited (in "forever" terms).

    3) Also, in "forever" terms, space travel must become cost effective for many applications, including terraforming celestial bodies for food or living purposes. The launch cost problem needs to be researched in general, not just for this application. Even more practical things like communication systems can benefit from cheaper launch costs. Space elevators, slow/multi-stage launches, etc. are being investigated.

    4) In engineering, Big Projects lead to Big Failures. Things happen "organically" with far more success, even though the "organic" growth ends up costing more over all. The way I envisioned the development of this technology was:
    a) Satellites for use in other applications, start hooking up to a power grid in space.
    b) Instead of decomissioning satellites, we power down most of it, and use the solar panels on it to feed into the grid.
    c) The Earth and space power grids, link up

    I was making one scientific/technological point (perhaps not very well):
    1) LASER and microwave transmission of power has far less loss than the incoherent, and non-directional light from the sun.

    ----
    As far as my comment about replacing current coal or Nuclear power plants...that was poor wording on my part. What I meant was that the technology in question would be part of human history at some point, not necessarily at the point we are at now.

    ----
    The main thing that has changed, is that I am a lot more pro-nuclear than I used to be. Near term, I think, next generation nuclear technology (like traveling wave or thorium reactors) needs to be a big part of the energy mix. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these things.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
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  3. #33
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    2) I was thinking really long term (almost in "forever" terms). At some point, human beings will run out of land on Earth. Transmission of power through space and atmosphere become imperitives at that point in human history. At some point much earlier than that, space "real-estate" will be cheaper than real-estate on Earth. Keep in mind we need land to generate our food, and to live on, not just for our energy. Deep Sea terraforming may help with that, but even that is limited (in "forever" terms).
    Ah, OK, I get it in terms of not covering the whole tropics with solar electricity generation. There is always the question of what you are taking away when you divert a resource. Widespread solar capture It makes me wonder about the effects on ground life and effects on albedo etc.
    In principle though, how much more useful energy could be gained from space based solar collection compared with collection on the ground? You still have to deal with transmission and re-collection through the atmosphere, but it can be captured for longer periods of time than the day cycle. And as you said, laser/microwave transmission of power has less loss through the atmosphere.

    As far as my comment about replacing current coal or Nuclear power plants...that was poor wording on my part. What I meant was that the technology in question would be part of human history at some point, not necessarily at the point we are at now.
    Ok. I still see it as at least 75 years away before it could become widespread, but that is just a crude prediction.

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