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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 11:49 AM
Original message
Harvest the Sun From Space
AS we face $4.50 a gallon gas, we also know that alternative energy sources coal, oil shale, ethanol, wind and ground-based solar are either of limited potential, very expensive, require huge energy storage systems or harm the environment. There is, however, one potential future energy source that is environmentally friendly, has essentially unlimited potential and can be cost competitive with any renewable source: space solar power.

Science fiction? Actually, no the technology already exists. A space solar power system would involve building large solar energy collectors in orbit around the Earth. These panels would collect far more energy than land-based units, which are hampered by weather, low angles of the sun in northern climes and, of course, the darkness of night.

Once collected, the solar energy would be safely beamed to Earth via wireless radio transmission, where it would be received by antennas near cities and other places where large amounts of power are used. The received energy would then be converted to electric power for distribution over the existing grid. Government scientists have projected that the cost of electric power generation from such a system could be as low as 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is within the range of what consumers pay now.

In terms of cost effectiveness, the two stumbling blocks for space solar power have been the expense of launching the collectors and the efficiency of their solar cells. Fortunately, the recent development of thinner, lighter and much higher efficiency solar cells promises to make sending them into space less expensive and return of energy much greater.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/opinion/23smith.html?...
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tridim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 11:55 AM
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1. IMO this will require a functioning space elevator before it becomes practical.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:30 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. A couple of years ago I met Dr. Brad Edwards who is working on the elevator.
He said they could have a demonstrator up in 15 years, using a carbon nanotube ribbon. I was polite and didn't ask what he was smoking.

More on "Elevator-boy Brad" here: http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/edwa...
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 03:15 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I think they may pull it off.
Then again, maybe they won't. It lives or dies on whether they can actually mass produce nanotube ribbon of the required tensile strength.

I notice they've since punted on their original 18-year timeline.
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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 11:56 AM
Response to Original message
2. Um I'm all in except for the "safely beamed to earth" part
You wanna send 80 bajillion kiflookywatts through our atmosphere aimed at our cities? Isn't the military touting some of it's new weapons based on the kiflookywatt?

Oh but the great thing about this system is that only a couple of no bid contracts for acquiring and transporting the money could be granted! Or you could have someone like T-Boone finance the whole thing and control our entire energy supply :eyes:

I don't like it. No sir I don't like it at all.
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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:01 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Just the thing to burn holes in the ionosphere and ozone layers. Use sunblock, 5,000,000 SPF min.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 11:57 AM
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3. It's not science fiction. It's economic fiction.
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NickB79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:25 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. And it will never die, apparently. NT
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DCKit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 04:37 PM
Response to Original message
8. How much energy would be lost to heating the atmosphere?
Or is that "A Good Thing" now?

I'm thinking the energy coming down a single earth-to-space cable would be enough to power half the country. But we'll have to try it before we'll know it it causes environmental disruption - you never know how much you need a magnetic shield until after you've short-circuited it.
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