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The NSSO states that it would be possible to capture energy equivalent to all remaining oil resources in a year of solar power.  (Source: NSSO/Pentagon)

The current design of the Space Solar Panel (SSP).  (Source: NSSO/Pentagon)

Artist's redition of an SSP power plant in action, beaming energy to Earth.  (Source: ©Mafic Studios, Inc.)
The Pentagon has some advanced solutions for the world energy crisis.

The Pentagon has never shied from developing expensive and controversial plans for new military technologies.  Over the past few decades it has engaged in many research programs, including the controversial strategic defense initiative/missile shield, which is finally seeing some measure of success according to a recent article by DailyTech's Michael Asher.

Now the Pentagon has issued a new report that calls for a technology effort, which may leave some scratching their heads, while raising many a cheer from some space flight advocates.

The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil, including imports that come from the conflict laden Middle East -- something which it sees as a critical "strategic energy vulnerability."  In order to eliminate this dependence, it proposes a radical alternative energy strategy.

The Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) proposed collecting solar rays in space and beaming it back to Earth.  It stated in the report that it feels that this is a "near-term" solution, which could be realized very quickly.

Such a move it says in the report, would allow U.S. forces deployed around the world to eliminate the long logistic chain needed to deliver fuel to vehicles and other generators, by beaming power directly where needed.  The NSSO labels the technology Space Solar Power (SSP) and has issued a press release (PDF) on a blog it is publishing with the Space Frontier Foundation.

The plan also states that by developing SSP, the U.S. Armed Forces can reduce the risk for large scale commercial development of the technology.  What this means, if the plans succeeds, is that industries may eventually see the technology at an affordable price, while the military will pay a premium to become the early adopter.

"The business case still doesn't close, but it's closer than ever," Marine Corps Lt. Col. Paul E. Damphousse of the NSSO states in the report.

Charles Miller, CEO of Constellation Services International, a space technology start-up, and director of the Space Frontier Foundation, hopes that the government chooses to follow the report and adopt the technology.  By installing a power plant in geostationary orbit, the government can effectively "buy down" the risk for industry start-ups such as his company, he says.

Such a move could allow the U.S. and its allies to commercially eliminate oil dependence, and meet the energy needs of the developing world, ushering in an era of clean energy.

John Mankins, president of the Space Power Association and technical expert in the field of SSP, had this to say on the proposal, "This is not a 50-year solution--the kinds of things that are possible today say a truly transformational demonstration at a large scale is achievable within this decade."

Mankins points to how solar cell efficiency has increased from once having a goal of 20-25 percent efficiency, to having successfully achieved efficiency rates of over 40 percent.   Mankins suggests using the International Space Station (ISS) as a possible platform to build the power plant around.  He says that Japan's Kibo module, set to launch in the first half of next year, would be the perfect place to test exotic materials for the solar cells, and eventually to begin mass construction of a solar array.

The panel of experts which helped publish the report suggests that the Pentagon front the costs of the technology to industry.  It also suggests aggressive tax breaks and other policies to encourage SSP development and adoption.

Lt. Damphousse also indicated that SSP development could give a boost to other space industries.  He stated in the report that development of a reusable launch vehicle was critical to making SSP viable.

While this report certainly indicates an interesting proposal from the Pentagon, it is questionable how much funding or serious attention it will receive.  Then again, from some of the other expensive and outlandish technologies such as laser pulse and strobe light weapons, which the Pentagon has been developing, nothing should be ruled impossible.  SSP may soon provide a new alternative energy option.



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Simcity
By darkfoon on 10/15/2007 11:25:01 AM , Rating: 5
Am I the only person who is reminded of the "Microwave" power plant in Simcity 2000 by this?
Anybody remember the disaster involving it, too?

That makes me wary of this technology. But its hilarious that it might become a viable tech.




RE: Simcity
By Proteusza on 10/15/2007 11:51:29 AM , Rating: 2
Ha ha, imagine if maxis patented the idea!

Seeing as the documentation for the manual states the same idea, and it was pubilshed in 2000, wouldnt that mean Maxis thought of the idea first?

On second thought, seeing as Maxis is now owned by EA, the Pentagon should use the new technology to "accidentally" vaporize the offices of EA.


RE: Simcity
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 10/15/2007 12:19:13 PM , Rating: 5
I always win a little inside when science fiction becomes reality.


RE: Simcity
By OrSin on 10/15/2007 1:47:54 PM , Rating: 1
Any one else missing how this would power vechicles. Most of the electric power we use is from coal and nature gas, not oil. So how would this really help our dependance on gas.


RE: Simcity
By JBird7986 on 10/15/2007 2:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the same thing.


RE: Simcity
By roastmules on 10/15/2007 2:49:53 PM , Rating: 5
Battery power and charging stations.
Set up a charging station at your base camp, or even a field camp for all vehicles. Send a request to the power distribution center, and ask for a beam of x' in diameter at a certain coordinates.
With this, the only issue then becomes how many beams of power can be sent...

The US military currently is jumping on the hybrid vehicle bandwagon as the technology can reduce transport costs to fuel distance vehicles as well as provide near-silent recon or assault vehicles.

BTW, it can cost as much as $100 total cost to get 1 gallon of fuel to a remote unit.


RE: Simcity
By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2007 3:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I just kind of assumed that they would tie this in to our very aged power grid. The power grid would probably need to be revamped or something, but that's going to have to happen eventually anyways. Once it's tied into the power grid then it can basically go anywhere. We may even set up a global power grid, who knows.


RE: Simcity
By goku on 10/17/2007 7:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
Too bad they removed this feature from the newer Sim Cities, I liked the more diverse power plant options that were in Simcity 2000.


RE: Simcity
By lompocus on 10/18/2007 11:01:57 PM , Rating: 2
ever heard of the TESLA tower? By tesla himself?

In the 1920s he tried to set it up. He almost had it finished until the depression hit. He couldn't pay up, and it was eventually recycled for scrap.

Basically, the tower was huge, and it would basically shoot power into the Earth's body which would vibrate around there for a helluva long time, longer than we would care. Another Tesla tower could later pick up the energy whenver it wanted and however much it wanted and disperse it among everyone in the area. The stupid contractors and business prevented this great thign from happeneing.

Then again, turning each tower 'on' once would completely ionize and utterly obliterate everything in a 5 mile radius. So...we'd have a lot of little holes around the world lol.


RE: Simcity
By PrimarchLion on 10/15/2007 4:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
I thought it was published in like 1993.


RE: Simcity
By 3kliksphilip on 10/15/2007 11:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
I love the idea. It's just like something out of a James Bond film. 'If we concentrate the beam, it can become a powerful weapon!'


RE: Simcity
By Proteusza on 10/15/2007 12:01:57 PM , Rating: 2
Incidentally, I think Die Another Day had exactly that in it.


RE: Simcity
By Bladud on 10/15/2007 12:29:05 PM , Rating: 6
The oldest use of the idea I ever saw was in a story by Asimov circa 1940 ("Reason"; the one with the robot who thinks he is Mohammed). I imagine it is a lot older though.


RE: Simcity
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 10/15/2007 1:21:43 PM , Rating: 2
It was 1941. I think Asimov still is credited with the first mention of it though. It took another 30 years for someone to get a patent. And people wonder why I'm an Asimov nut :)


RE: Simcity
By Sahrin on 10/15/2007 4:31:42 PM , Rating: 1
You mean there are people who aren't Asimov nuts?


RE: Simcity
By Sahrin on 10/15/2007 1:28:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry I can't personally give this post a 6. You deserve a cookie for getting the reference right - these poor kids who think that the technology was thought of by Maxis 7 years ago need to do some reading.

That story rocked - and the idea of space-based solar power using microwave beams to return it to Earth is older than most people alive today.


RE: Simcity
By Fnoob on 10/22/2007 9:46:15 AM , Rating: 2
the robot who thinks he is Mohammed.

is there anyone who isn't an Asimov nut?

Um, Muslim extremists?


RE: Simcity
By 3kliksphilip on 10/15/2007 2:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah it does! (And the Eden Project, which I live several miles away from). No wonder the Army's interested in this product. Perpetual ion cannon!


RE: Simcity
By Verran on 10/15/2007 1:24:17 PM , Rating: 2
I actually thought of "Real Genius" myself :)


RE: Simcity
By Schadenfroh on 10/15/2007 11:01:11 PM , Rating: 2
I just noticed that Kent's tracking mirror is missing......


RE: Simcity
By Samus on 10/16/2007 12:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
time to purchase a huge bulk-quantity of popcorn seeds?


RE: Simcity
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 10/17/2007 4:40:22 PM , Rating: 2
What about the birds that would fly through this beam? mmmm roast duck


RE: Simcity
By Doormat on 10/15/2007 3:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
Command and Conquer - Ion Cannon Ready....


RE: Simcity
By Radeon117X on 10/15/2007 3:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
So true! The beginning of GDI...

If there is anyone here who watches or started watching the latest Gundam series, 00, they'd notice that they did this in that series, but in a more physical way, not via beams.

Funny how it seems along these lines of using massive solar arrays in outer space to transfer energy to earth. Here's some pictures of the arrays from the show:
http://i93.photobucket.com/albums/l56/Radeon117X/G...
http://i93.photobucket.com/albums/l56/Radeon117X/G...
http://i93.photobucket.com/albums/l56/Radeon117X/G...

But yeah. That reminder of SimCity was awesome :). Can't believe things like this could actually be a reality soon...


RE: Simcity
By wingless on 10/15/2007 10:35:47 PM , Rating: 2
Whoa you hit the nail on the head. I just started watching GUNDAM 00. If they design a humanoid battle robot then I'll start to get worried...

I have a question about "beaming" power down. Will these methods be safe on our atmosphere or will they boil away our Ozone Layer?


Space is not the answer.
By TxJeepers on 10/15/2007 12:29:14 PM , Rating: 2
Bah...the answer is not in space.
Salt Water. That's where the gold is. Take a gallon of salt water and turn it into energy with little to no enviromental impact. The scientists that figure that out, well civilization will take a massive step forward.
I think we need Al Gore to head this up.




RE: Space is not the answer.
By fake01 on 10/15/2007 12:46:58 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure if your being sarcastic or not. But think of it like this.

>There is a shit load more air than there is water.

>It didn't take us long to pollute the air which caused a mass global effect on the world.

>How long do you think it would take before we get people complaining that there isn't enough salt water in the ocean if we decide to use it for a power source?.

>Once the space solar plant is complete (If it goes ahead) it will be like having free energy. You won't be able to get that much energy cheaper anywhere else.

>It won't do any damage to our atmosphere or any damage to anything to be precise.

>If they can transfer energy using microwaves than it could be extremely useful for vehicles as there will be no need for petrol thus producing no green house gases.

I am all for this solar power plant. I think its as good as using nuclear power, won't generate as much power but makes up for it with everything else.
I wonder, if they can transfer energy using microwaves, why don't they do that now to replace power lines etc?


RE: Space is not the answer.
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 12:57:22 PM , Rating: 2
> "How long do you think it would take before we get people complaining that there isn't enough salt water in the ocean if we decide to use it for a power source?."

There is no chemical power in salt water. Theoretically, energy could be extracted via fusion. But we're not extremely close to D-T based fusion as it is...fusion based on raw water itself is probably centuries away.

> "if they can transfer energy using microwaves, why don't they do that now to replace power lines etc? "

They could...if you don't mind throwing away most of your power in losses. Even this space-based solution is going to lose ~25% of all power generated in atmospheric/conversion losses. A terrestrial solution would have to punch through much more atmosphere, and, for safety reasons, would have to use lower-power, less-efficient beams.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/15/2007 1:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
Salt water has just been discovered as a fuel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6vSxR6UKFM


RE: Space is not the answer.
By bhieb on 10/15/2007 1:48:07 PM , Rating: 2
No. All that proves is that salt water will burn at the right frequency. It does not state how much energy was put into the microwave to get the flame, nor how much energy was produced. For example did it take 1KW to produce the microwave to run the .1KW engine? If so he has done nothing. It is neat, but from what I have read about this particular issue, the net energy ouput is still negative.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/15/2007 5:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
Right. I never said it was a net gain in power but does fuel have to be? Not according to the definition. From Wikipedia
quote:
Fuel is any material that is capable of releasing energy when its chemical or physical structure is altered. Fuel releases its energy either through chemical means, such as burning, or nuclear means, such as nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. An important property of a useful fuel is that its energy can be stored to be released only when needed, and that the release is controlled in such a way that the energy can be harnessed to produce work.

It is not the answer to the problems presented above but none the less it is a fuel.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 6:19:04 PM , Rating: 3
> " but does fuel have to be? Not according to the definition. From Wikipedia "

An excellent illustration of why relying upon Wikipedia is poor practice. The word 'fuel' implies a substance able to release net energy.

The "burning" of salt water is an endothermic process...it consumes energy, rather than releasing it. Thus it isn't a fuel, not by any standard usage of the term.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/16/2007 9:37:13 AM , Rating: 1
Smug. I rely only on my own perception not on wikipedia. But if you must change the definition to suit your argument then so be it.
From the American heritage dictionary:
quote:
Something consumed to produce energy, especially:
1. A material such as wood, coal, gas, or oil burned to produce heat or power.
2. Fissionable material used in a nuclear reactor.
3. Nutritive material metabolized by a living organism; food.


From Columbia encyclopedia:
quote:
fuel, material that can be burned or otherwise consumed to produce heat. The common fuels used in industry, transportation, and the home are burned in air. The carbon and hydrogen in fuel rapidly combine with oxygen in the air in an exothermal reaction—one that liberates heat. Most of the fuels used by industrialized nations are in the form of incompletely oxidized and decayed animal and vegetable materials, or fossil fuels, specifically coal, peat, lignite, petroleum, and natural gas. From these natural fuels other artificial ones can be derived. Coal gas, coke, water gas, and producer gas can be made using coal as the principal ingredient. Gasoline, kerosene, and fuel oil are made from petroleum. For most transportation, fuel must be in a liquid form.


From Miriam-Webster dictionary:
quote:
1 a: a material used to produce heat or power by burning b: nutritive material c: a material from which atomic energy can be liberated especially in a reactor


Maybe you should write all of these sources to match your definition. Heck you could edit the wiki on it if you wanted.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/16/2007 9:55:17 AM , Rating: 2
It looks as though they have surpassed 100% efficiency according to the PESwiki: http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:John_Kanziu...


RE: Space is not the answer.
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 10:00:30 AM , Rating: 2
From your own link:
quote:
Kanzius is not publicly disclosing the mechanism of action at this time...
Coming from someone whose seen dozens of similar claims come and go -- this is the classic hallmark of a scam operator.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 9:58:34 AM , Rating: 3
> "From the American heritage dictionary: Something consumed to produce energy"

But saltwater doesn't produce energy. It's a net consumer of energy. That's the crucial point you're missing.

The radio waves (using a large power input) split the water into H2 and O2. H2 is a fuel...but the water itself is not. It does not "burn". It does not produce energy. It absorbs energy, and in the process releases a fuel.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/16/2007 10:50:23 AM , Rating: 2
Correct. When bombarded with RF the salt in the water acts as a catalyst. The molecules loose their bonds and the hydrogen rises to the top of the tube. You light it on fire. Simple. I assume it will keep burning until the hydrogen is gone. The process does produce energy though. They have proven that the flame is burning at above 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.

I even said above that it was not the solution to the problems presented. No one knew that when bombarded with RF salt water would loose it molecular bonds and ignite. The original comment was a cynical reply to the guy who said "if someone can turn salt water into fuel it will be the end-all solution." I was pointing out that it had been discovered and it is not viable. This does not mean that Kanzius' discovery should be minimized.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/07, Rating: -1
RE: Space is not the answer.
By Torched on 10/16/2007 3:34:06 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
> "They have proven that the flame is burning at above 3000 degrees Fahrenheit"
An excellent example of the logical fallacy known as "misleading vividness". So what if the flame was burning at 30,000 degrees, or 3 million? What counts is how much energy is produced, versus how much was input.

The statement was not a logical argument, simply a fact.

quote:
Not unless the laws of thermodynamics have suddenly been repealed. The process -- taken as a whole -- consumes energy. It doesn't produce it.

Whats your point? I've said that the process as a whole is a net loss. Go ahead and deny the fact that when the salt water is lit on fire energy is produced. There is a production of energy just not a net gain. This is not a violation of the laws of thermodynamics and if you have information to the contrary I would love to be informed.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By rcc on 10/15/2007 2:23:24 PM , Rating: 2
One has to wonder how much power he has to put in and how much he gets out. It's a neat science experiment unless it generates a postive power output.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By Oregonian2 on 10/15/2007 1:36:39 PM , Rating: 2
Talk about literal global warming... :-)


RE: Space is not the answer.
By phusg on 10/15/2007 6:08:52 PM , Rating: 1
> Even this space-based solution is going to lose ~25% of all power generated in atmospheric/conversion losses.

Does anyone have any idea what this 25% loss punching through the atmosphere will do to it's chemistry and in turn our climate? I only ask because our last idea about burning all the oil we could lay our hands on doesn't seem to be working out to well for us ;-)

I know the atmosphere usually does a pretty good job of keeping the sun's rays out, but it's not exactly used to concentrated microwaves.

I'm got this feeling the Pentagon is more concerned about this technology doubling as a weapon of mass destruction (BTW I'm sure Putin is going to love this) than it solving our energy needs.


RE: Space is not the answer.
By gpburdell on 10/16/2007 4:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
> Even this space-based solution is going to lose ~25% of all power generated in atmospheric/conversion losses. A terrestrial solution would have to punch through much more atmosphere, and, for safety reasons, would have to use lower-power, less-efficient beams.

All we have to do is attach the system to the top of that earth-to-space tether/ladder/elevator that someone is going to build "soon" and we can conduct the power directly to the surface. It will be part of the grid. :)


By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 12:41:03 PM , Rating: 2
If one collects a large amount of solar energy in orbit, there's a much more efficient use of it than to convert it into microwaves, beam it to earth, then reconvert to electricity. Simply use the energy right where you collect it.

Tow a few small asteroids over, smelt out the valuable metals, and drop them down to earth. Leave the slag and waste products in space, and we've now just begun the process of moving our dirty, polluting, energy-intensive heavy manufacturing in orbit.




By smitty3268 on 10/15/2007 1:21:09 PM , Rating: 2
True enough in theory, but:
1. How are we going to tow asteroids around? We're lucky if can just get to them right now, and it would take a heck of a lot of power to move one of these that has even a decent size for mining.
2. Do asteroids even have valuable metals in them? I imagine a few of them do, but I don't think that's very common. Could be wrong about that, though.
3. Then you've either got to create a permanent human habitat up in orbit for the miners to work in (extremely expensive to create and keep supplying) or you've got to invent robot workers - much nicer but still many years away from being realistic.
4. Dropping them down to earth - these have got to be either really valuable (diamonds?) or you'll never be profitable because you couldn't just shoot large amounts of rock down to earth - it would either be big and cause a major impact or small and burn up in the atmosphere - so you'd have to come up with some kind of braking system, probably a capsule of some kind to contain everything, and you'd have to launch another one into space each time you wanted more cargo to come back down.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 2:16:25 PM , Rating: 2
> "it would take a heck of a lot of power to move one "

You're in space. You have unlimited solar power. In the absence of gravity, a few dollars of plastic, expanded with CO2 gas and silvered with paint makes an enormous concentrative reflector. No need to even turn it into electricity...just focus it on the asteroid and use the ablative force to drive it directly.

> "Do asteroids even have valuable metals in them?"

Carbonaceous chondrites do not, but there are some that are primarily a solid nickel-iron alloy....countless trillions and trillions of tons worth of them. Other metals are also available in smaller quantities.

> "or you've got to invent robot workers - much nicer but still many years away from being realistic."

You don't need intelligent robots; you can direct all operations from the ground, using standard telemetry techniques.

> "it would either be big and cause a major impact or small and burn up in the atmosphere "

Untrue. As long as you put the package into a shallow aerobrake descent orbit, you'll lose only a few percent of it through ablative losses in the atmosphere. We did just this with the Apollo return capsules and, with the combination of a heat shield and a parachute to help shed a few more m/s of velocity, the descent was safe enough for manned flight.

In fact, using modern materials and technology, NASA has even proposed a fuel-less reentry system from emergency exit from the ISS, small enough for use for a single astronaut.


By smitty3268 on 10/15/2007 5:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You're in space. You have unlimited solar power. In the absence of gravity, a few dollars of plastic, expanded with CO2 gas and silvered with paint makes an enormous concentrative reflector. No need to even turn it into electricity...just focus it on the asteroid and use the ablative force to drive it directly.


Well, yes. You could actually do that to the earth in order to take us straight to the asteroid instead of the other way around, but since the earth has so much mass it would take a very long time. You're either talking about a very very small asteroid or a very very large tugboat in order to be even halfway realistic.

quote:
You don't need intelligent robots; you can direct all operations from the ground, using standard telemetry techniques.


That much is true. It would still be a lot more expensive than paying somebody in South America $1 a day, though.

quote:
Untrue. As long as you put the package into a shallow aerobrake descent orbit, you'll lose only a few percent of it through ablative losses in the atmosphere. We did just this with the Apollo return capsules and, with the combination of a heat shield and a parachute to help shed a few more m/s of velocity, the descent was safe enough for manned flight.


What I meant by "large" was many thousands of tons. When you get that much you're going to create a tidal wave or crater even if you can slow it down a lot. Most of the common materials we mine for, like copper, wouldn't make economic sense to get unless it was in truly massive quantities. So you're going to have to be mining for something rare and expensive - diamonds, platinum, etc. With those, I still think it's going to be cheaper getting them out of the ground, but I could see it becoming feasible eventually.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 5:43:57 PM , Rating: 2
> "You're either talking about a very very small asteroid or a very very large tugboat in order to be even halfway realistic"

A nickel-iron asteroid with a 20 meter radius is exceedingly tiny compared to the earth. It still contains some 270,000 tons of metals in it. Assuming its nickel-iron, it'd be worth some $1,700,000,000 at todays spot prices.

> "When you get that much you're going to create a tidal wave or crater even if you can slow it down a lot"

A crater, sure...I don't see water landings as being feasible. So? After it cools, you pull the metal out, fill the dirt back in, and prepare for the next landing.


By incompleteunit on 10/16/2007 10:17:32 AM , Rating: 2
Why drop the whole asteroid? Mine it in orbit, and drop the metal you dig out of it. Much smaller, you can safely drop it into an unpopulated area. You also avoid the pollution from smelting.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 10:21:57 AM , Rating: 2
> "Why drop the whole asteroid? Mine it in orbit, and drop the metal you dig out of it"

That's exactly what I suggested in the first place. You wouldn't want to drop raw ore, but rather refined metals.


By cgrecu77 on 10/15/2007 1:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
I would think that "dropping" out the metals would be quite hard to do (and dangerous, unless you attached an engine to them ...). "Capturing" an asteroid would probably require technology that is centuries away too ...

Then again, you were probably joking.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 2:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
> "I would think that "dropping" out the metals would be quite hard to do (and dangerous, unless you attached an engine to them ...)"

No engine required. We're already dropping satellites to the ground with aerobraking on both Earth and Mars, and a large chunk of metal is a lot less fragile than a Mars rover or a manned Apollo probe. Its not dangerous in the least, as long as you use a drop site with a couple miles of open land around it.

> "Capturing" an asteroid would probably require technology that is centuries away too ..."

Centuries away? We already have the technology to do so. Moving a "dinosaur-killer" class stony chondrite would be tough, but a far smaller, iron-nickel asteroid would be a piece of cake.


By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2007 3:12:46 PM , Rating: 1
I'm sorry, but I see you failed to mention where we would get these asteroids from and how we would get to them in the first place. The nearest asteroid belt is quite a bit farther away than our moon, near Pluto and Neptune if I remember correctly. That's certainly no short trip there. Doesn't matter if we can actually move the asteroid if it takes over 100 years to get it in position.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 3:28:11 PM , Rating: 4
> "The nearest asteroid belt is quite a bit farther away than our moon, near Pluto and Neptune if I remember correctly"

Err, the Asteroid Belt is actually between Mars and Jupiter. And there are, of course, millions of asteroids outside that belt...which explains why the earth is hit daily by several.

Even working from the Asteroid Belt itself, a primitive ablative-based thruster can move a 10-100K ton asteroid to NEO in just a few years time. Since the operation would be fully automated, the time factor isn't a problem.


RE: First step towards a much more effective solution
By Ringold on 10/15/2007 4:46:54 PM , Rating: 2
That is truly impressive. You completely forgot the asteroid belt almost everybody is highly aware of and brought up the one that I'd reckon 95% of people have no idea exists. I remember years ago having to convince my parents that there really was a Kuiper Belt way out yonder. Not like I could point it out on the night sky..


By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2007 10:11:55 PM , Rating: 1
Ahh well, I don't keep up with the space stuff. I was just recalling stuff from like 3rd grade, or whenever I learned all the planets and such in school.

Ok, so even if it was only between Mars and Jupiter that's still several years to get it here. It's not like we just go to Mars on a whim. I don't recall how long it takes to get to Mars currently though. Even assuming you could get there and position a rocket on an asteroid you better hope you send it to the right place. Asteroids haven't been studied to extensively so perhaps the rocket could break through the asteroid, or even knocking a piece off could be real bad since you'd have extra thrust.

Not sure about all the asteroids that aren't in the asteroid belt, but if my knowledge serves me correctly these are VERY small pieces in comparison to one that you would actually mine on. These are the ones that burn up in our atmosphere.


By Hydrofirex on 10/15/2007 6:59:25 PM , Rating: 2
Though I see a lot of people shaking their heads at your idea they should realize that people probably had a lot of the same objections about microwave ovens, space flight in general, or even nuclear power.

This will become reality, and private space will be there.

HfX


Really?
By ziggo on 10/15/2007 11:53:30 AM , Rating: 4
"The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil, which comes chiefly from the conflict laden Middle East "

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_...

Kind of stretch don't you think?




RE: Really?
By Kuroyama on 10/15/2007 12:32:37 PM , Rating: 2
While Jason didn't phrase things quite correctly, oil is a very global commodity and so it doesn't matter so much where the US oil supply comes from as where the global oil supply comes from. Moreover, supply and demand are matched closely enough, and the demand is inelastic enough, that it wouldn't take that huge a disruption in supplies for the price to skyrocket. Just imagine what would happen if the Saudi government were overthrown and the country took a few years to stabilize? Or if Iran's friendly leader decided to (try to) close the Persian Gulf?


RE: Really?
By omnicronx on 10/15/2007 1:22:04 PM , Rating: 2
It's still b.s.. Canadian oil is only retrieved from the oil sand fields, if they actually increased production to more than just getting oil from the sand they could easily fill in what the saudis are currently providing. But as you said, its the world supply not the U.S supply.


RE: Really?
By Hoser McMoose on 10/15/2007 5:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
More than half of Canada's oil production comes from fairly traditional means, the oil sands production is still pretty small. On the other hand, it's pretty much the only source of oil production in North America that is increasing as most other sources are in decline.

And no, there's no way that Canada could 'easily' fill in what the Saudis are currently providing. Canada is pretty well tapped for conventional production, it's not going away but it can't be easily increased. Oil sand production can (and is) be increased, but it is very infrastructure dependant. It takes a good 5 to 10 years to build new projects there, they just can't be turned on overnight.

The simple fact is that with $80+/barrel oil, pretty much everyone who CAN produce oil IS producing oil now.


RE: Really?
By AraH on 10/15/2007 1:39:39 PM , Rating: 2
living in Saudi, i don't see much possibility of that happening (not in the near future anyway)... though redundancy IS something that governments should plan for...


RE: Really?
By Ringold on 10/15/2007 4:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
living in Saudi, i don't see much possibility of that happening (not in the near future anyway)


Thats reassuring; from across the globe, on the one hand, it's known Saudi Arabia has its share of extremists and those who want to over throw the royal family. On the other hand, it seems like they have a tight grip on the situation. At least from your position it looks stable, so that's a little reassuring.


RE: Really?
By Kuroyama on 10/16/2007 3:11:52 PM , Rating: 2
Whatever happened to "democracy and freedom"? How many people cheered when the Burmese (Myanmar) government repressed its people yet again? Or the Chinese government massacred its people in Tienanmen? And yet we support the far from pleasant methods used by the Saudi gov't to pacify their people. Perhaps the ends justify the means in this case, or not, and sure the current Saudi government is probably far better than whoever is likely to overthrow them, but I rarely find it pleasing to hear that a dictatorship has a firm grip on its people.


RE: Really?
By roastmules on 10/15/2007 4:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Not as much of a stretch as it appears on the surface. You must ignore imports from Canada and Mexico, as they are the primary allies of the US, and members of NATO. The documents make reference to use by NATO allies, primarily the US. So, we'd have to exclude any NATO countries from this list. So, basically NATO receives most of it's foreign (non NATO) petro-chem from the Middle East.

They should have made the sentence, "The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. < and allies' > dependence on oil <--from non allied sources >."


reminds me of SimCity
By Screwballl on 10/15/2007 1:18:01 PM , Rating: 2
back on either SimCity2000 or 3000 there was a random "disaster" where the Microwave power plant misses its beam and the beam goes off track and destroys anything in its way.
Hope this is not a problem in real life, hate to step out of my house in 50 years to get blasted with focused sun rays much like an ant under a magnifying glass.




RE: reminds me of SimCity
By Screwballl on 10/15/2007 1:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
sorry did not see above postings about SimCity


RE: reminds me of SimCity
By Oregonian2 on 10/15/2007 1:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
It shouldn't destroy everything, not sure why it necessarily would. Mind you it would cook every person, pet, bug, bottle of beer, etc, but buildings, cars, and the like are probably microwave safe.

:-)


RE: reminds me of SimCity
By Oregonian2 on 10/15/2007 2:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
P.S. - I say that tongue in cheek. A transport "beam" would have to be one picked in frequency that didn't have any significant absorption by water (vapor) else it would be very lossy in delivery.

P.P.S. - Actually the vast majority of global warming is by water vapor absorbing sun radiation, as I understand things. Our pollution and the like is only tilting that tiny last percentage and/or cutting down the losses. Global warming actually is a good thing, else we'd all be frozen dead things, it's just a matter of how much.


By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 10/17/2007 4:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not if you have an aluminum foil hat on. I'm wearing mine now.


What about when..
By ussfletcher on 10/15/2007 6:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
What about the missiles capable of destroying satellites? If we used this technology as the center for all of our power, one Chinese satellite missile would put us in a LONG blackout.




RE: What about when..
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 6:28:59 PM , Rating: 2
The Chinese don't (at present) have a missile capable of destroying a geosychronous satellite. It takes about 4-5 more km/sec dV to get there than it does to reach NEO.

But long-term yes, one would have to think about possible antisat measures if this was intended in a military role against a nation like China or Russia.


RE: What about when..
By ussfletcher on 10/15/2007 8:34:29 PM , Rating: 1
Wrong, they tested such a missile earlier this year.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic...


RE: What about when..
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 9:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
No. That missile hit a satellite in NEO. A geosynch satellite orbits some 26,000 miles up.


Space Industries
By geddarkstorm on 10/15/2007 11:54:04 AM , Rating: 3
It certainly does have the potential to become revolutionary. I'm also glad to see they want to include the ISS in this plan. Heck, if perfecting manufacturing in space can be done, it could lead to a whole industry, as there are some things that can only be done best in zero g. I guess the idea of developing space excites me, but this is probably the best first step you can get--manufacturing exotics. Once you have a good earth to space and back again system and plenty of space based platforms and resource depots you can really start being serious about such projects as asteroid mining or seriously look to the moon.




RE: Space Industries
By BiuTech on 10/15/2007 1:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
Really, the concept and technology is not something entirely new, however, this implementation will be revolutionary when fully realized. Furthermore, it is not a matter of will this happen, it is already happening and is just a matter of time:

http://www.spaceislandgroup.com/solarsat.html


What does "chiefly" mean, exactly?
By dubldwn on 10/15/2007 1:30:25 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil, which comes chiefly from the conflict laden Middle East

US petroleum imports:
Canada 21.3%, Mexico 14.0%, Saudi Arabia 12.7%, Venezuela 12.0%, Nigeria 9.3%, Algeria 6.4%, Angola 4.9%, Iraq 4.2%, Russia 3.7%, Virgin Islands 2.9%, UK 2.8%, Columbia 1.2%, Kuwait 1.8%, Brazil 1.8%, Libya 1.0%




By dubldwn on 10/15/2007 1:38:22 PM , Rating: 2
oops...looks like ziggo already posted this info...


By NicePants42 on 10/15/2007 11:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
"...development of a reusable launch vehicle was critical to making SSP viable."

Anyone remember that whole 'space elevator' - thing with the carbon nanotube 'thread' which would physically attach the earth to some kind of geosynchroneously orbiting space station? Seems to me that attaching a microwave receiver to that orbiting space station might be a bit safer than blasting away at the ground with 1.8 Jiggawatts or whatever - if safety is a goal, that is. Beaming the power to some point tangent to the earth's curvature could ensure that any stray microwaves are sent off into space, rather than into your house.

Eventually, it'd be nice to get some arrays orbiting the sun rather than the earth. How are we coming on the nanites?




By iFX on 10/15/2007 12:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
They did that on an Episode of Voyager IIRC... nelix was the lift operator...


Not again...
By FrankM on 10/15/2007 3:40:18 PM , Rating: 2
Don't tell the Chinese PLA has now hacked the Sci-Fi channel into the Pentagon?




usa for usa
By gescom on 10/16/2007 5:32:31 AM , Rating: 2
"Power for U.S., Allies"
Great. Speak USA or die :)




Who will pay the premium....US
By pomaikai on 10/16/2007 9:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
What this means, if the plans succeeds, is that industries may eventually see the technology at an affordable price, while the military will pay a premium to become the early adopter.


What this means is that our tax dollars pays the premium so businesses dont have to. Genius




i have a better idea
By inperfectdarkness on 10/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: i have a better idea
By krotchy on 10/15/2007 12:08:48 PM , Rating: 3
Wind Turbines cause a lot of uproar from Wildlife groups from what I see. Living in Boulder Colorado I see the uproar much louder than most because it is one of the most liberal cities in the county.

The main concern is birds flying into the turbines (which spin so slow I don't get how they could hit it). However there have been several proposed wind power locations in Colorado and they all get halted by environmental studies which take so long to conclude that the proposal just gets pushed aside.


RE: i have a better idea
By nothingtoseehere on 10/15/2007 8:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 10:40:54 PM , Rating: 2
There seems to be some controversy over that. This story in USAToday reports very high mortality rates from windmill farms:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-01-04-win...


RE: i have a better idea
By Upset Nerd on 10/16/2007 1:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
The problem in Altamont Pass seems to primarily be caused by the windmills being from an older generation when they were much smaller. The greatly reduced number of windmills required for a given generating capacity when using modern larger designs, combined with their lower RPM, should greatly reduce the impact risk for birds.


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 2:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
> "when using modern larger designs, combined with their lower RPM, should greatly reduce the impact risk for birds"

That doesn't necessarily follow. Sure the larger windmills have a much lower rpm. But their overall speed is actually faster. Take a look at GE's 3.6sl windmill, for instance. It operates at a max speed of 15 rpm. Sounds slow, right? But since the rotor is 111 meters in diameter, at that 15 rpm the rotor tips are moving 185 mph. What bird is going to avoid that?


RE: i have a better idea
By Upset Nerd on 10/16/2007 3:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking in terms of the purely statistical likelihood that a turbine blade would hit a bird as it's passing through the rotor disc. As far as I can see the likelihood of that should be directly proportional to turbine RPM.


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 4:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
As I see it, the total swept area and mean blade velocity are the two primary factors. The large, newer windmills have a larger swept area and a blade velocity at least equal to the old windmills.


RE: i have a better idea
By JediJeb on 10/15/2007 12:16:46 PM , Rating: 2
Not a bad idea, but then the sun always shines in space, while the wind doesn't blow everywhere on earth. Another thing to look at is how many wind turbines would it take to equal the output of this space tech?


RE: i have a better idea
By inperfectdarkness on 10/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 3:09:02 PM , Rating: 3
> "give me a 100 mile section of highway and venture capitalists, and i'll give you enough electricity to power a small city"

Why can't renewable-energy supporters do simple math? The average land-based wind tower generates about 1.3 MW. (There are larger ones, but they're generally only practical offshore). You can't place towers that size close than about 1/5 mile to each other, before they begin to interfere with each other's operation. That means 500 windmills in a 100-mile stretch. Assuming 100% conversion efficiency and a highly optimistic 30% availability factor (few sites have wind this reliable), that gives mean power generation at 195 MW. That of course ignores the huge losses one would incur from energy storage, if one wanted that windmill array to operate even when the wind isn't blowing.

Austin, Tx is a small city (about 650,000 people) and its peak power usage is about 3,000 MW -- or some 16 times what that 100 mile stretch of road would generate. To power Austin would therefore take a stretch of road at least 1600 miles long.


RE: i have a better idea
By MrPickins on 10/15/2007 4:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't call Austin a small city (the metro area is over 1.5 million people), I definitely agree that there isn't enough highway (even in TX) for the numbers to work out.


RE: i have a better idea
By PrinceGaz on 10/15/2007 4:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure there is more than one road running into Austin ;) Place turbines along all of them and I'm sure you'd soon have your required 1600 miles. Personally though, I'd just build a nuclear power-plant assuming a suitable location is available for it.


RE: i have a better idea
By MrPickins on 10/15/2007 5:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
All the interstates around here have major commercial zones on their frontage. You going to tear those down?

Oh, and there is the small fact that the winds in this area are extremely variable. The availability factor would be terrible.


RE: i have a better idea
By PrinceGaz on 10/15/2007 5:11:16 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Austin, Tx is a small city (about 650,000 people) and its peak power usage is about 3,000 MW -- or some 16 times what that 100 mile stretch of road would generate. To power Austin would therefore take a stretch of road at least 1600 miles long.


No one in their right mind would consider building enough wind-turbines to supply a cities peak -load, the sensible maximum amount of non-reliable power that should be able to be generated is the base-load, otherwise much of the time on good windy days a lot of power will be wasted, while on calm days there are that many more wind-turbines sitting idle.

Using peak-load figures may have been an honest mistake M.Asher, but in future you will be more credible if you use base-load.


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 5:27:54 PM , Rating: 1
> "No one in their right mind would consider building enough wind-turbines to supply a cities peak -load"

That peak load has to come from somewhere. If a windmill isn't sitting idle, then a gas turbine or nuclear power plant is. You can't simply pretend that peak requirement doesn't exist.

In any case, the differential between base and peak load isn't huge..only around a factor of two. Had I used base load for the Metropolitan Austin area rather than peak load for in-city-limits usage, the figures would have remained the same.


RE: i have a better idea
By MrTeal on 10/15/2007 11:00:37 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
not to mention that winds are further generated by constant traffic flow, further increasing the available energy source.


I know, I know, you've all had a good belly laugh at this already, but I just couldn't read it without posting. I wonder what the actual effect of a semi going by a wind turbine at highway speed is? Milliwatts? Ignoring the fact that the interstates are not one way and any "wind" generated by traffic in one direction would cancel out with the traffic going the other way.


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 12:32:07 PM , Rating: 4
> "wind turbine generators placed at regular intervals down interstate highways has MUCH higher potential than this"

Given that all the wind on earth contains only a vanishingly small fraction of the energy from solar flux, one should easily see that space-based solar power has far greater potential than wind.


RE: i have a better idea
By nah on 10/15/2007 3:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
masher in favour of solar--this is a first ;
what about the cost of transporting things into GEO orbit--what rates do current satellite launchers pay ? a 1 km2 wide band of solar cells would weigh what ? At USD 6-10k per kg--that's alot of kgs to measure. Also possibilities of objects hitting it, and transmission losses--plus radiation .


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/15/2007 3:23:37 PM , Rating: 3
> "masher in favour of solar--this is a first"

I'm in favor when it makes sense. At earth's surface, the solar flux is too weak and variable. In orbit, the absence of atmosphere and the light/dark cycle means collecting collects some 8-20X as much power per square meter. Plus, the absence of wind and gravity means enormous concentrators can be built very cheaply.

> "what about the cost of transporting things into GEO orbit"

That is indeed the weak point. However, with modern materials, one doesn't need to transport a lot of mass into orbit. For instance, a few ounces of paint and expanded plastic can make a concentrator size hundred square meters in size.


RE: i have a better idea
By djcameron on 10/15/2007 4:37:16 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe if we build enough concentrators to prevent some of the sunlight from reaching the Earth, then we can prevent global warming. </poor attempt at humor>


RE: i have a better idea
By Ringold on 10/15/2007 4:51:45 PM , Rating: 1
That's actually a spin on a plan that was in the news some time ago, except the plan essentially wanted to use little discs to block the sun to no other end except for blocking sunlight.


RE: i have a better idea
By Darkskypoet on 10/16/2007 3:04:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually... If we adopted a sane means of space travel, ie; utilizing economies of scale, etc. the cost per kg would become... not trivial, but far lower then today.

There were a few projects looking at utilizing a simple sort of German v-2 based rocket design that could be easily modified and mass produced to severely drop the cost of putting mass into orbit.

The problem is we manufacture so few, and so many diverse launch vehicles that we never manage to make good on some of the base capitalistic manufacturing lessons that we have learned and applied to everything else.

Please don't read this as, "yes lets use V2s"... but seriously, if we wanted to lift to space, and mass produced the bleep out of a solid lifting platform, cost per kg would be a joke compared to current rates.

However, as space lifting tends to be quite nationalistic, and thus different for each space agency involved, we never see any returns to scale that has happily dropped every single last other manufactured item in the history of mankind.

Seeing how these practices could be put into place via a consortium of governmental bodies, its not strictly necessary to wait for private interests. However, the pentagon isn't stupid for advocating taking the plunge. The Airline industry has plowed billions if not trillions into the U.S economy over the past 50 plus years...

Imagine what a concentrated effort of mass producing space craft could do for the 'allies'. Simply put, by creating the main industry, and the associated parts industries, this would create another wave of industrialization in a world where Developed (read western) nations have been bleeding manufacturing capacity for 10 years plus.

Albeit corporate welfare at its finest, as long as the government gets revenues to plow back into the treasury from patents, international export, etc. It would probably pay off, and jump start the largest western industrial revolution in many decades...

That being said, if we could leverage low Chinese labour rates and their ongoing industrial revolution, the price would come down a lot faster, and routine commercial space travel would come into its own much sooner.


RE: i have a better idea
By jskirwin on 10/15/2007 1:07:41 PM , Rating: 4
Wind turbines suffer from a critical defect: the NIMBY problem. Even Walter Cronkite fought to kill a wind farm off Cape Cod. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980...
quote:
But like residents of dozens of communities where other wind-farm projects have been proposed, many Cape Codders have put aside their larger environmental sensitivities and are demanding that their home be exempt from such projects.


Even though the farm would have supplied 75% of their electric needs, the residents still fought it.

Why? Because they would rather someone else suffer so that they get their energy. Classic NIMBY-thinking. The result? The poor get stuck with the projects while the rich get to claim how "green" they are.

Residents would fight every wind turbine on every mile of interstate. There would be huge dust-ups between Federal-state-local authorities, and the lawsuits would be tie up the project for decades.


RE: i have a better idea
By Oregonian2 on 10/15/2007 1:50:50 PM , Rating: 1
First of all, if next to Interstates, at least where they pass through towns and metro cities, massive amounts of shopping malls, industrial buildings and the like would have to be torn down. Interstates usually attract development next to it when populations are nearby. Windmills aren't something they just have in the back corner of a parking lot, they are *HUGE*. Probably don't work too well either if there's a ten story building sitting in front of it.

Other thing is that they are reported to be EXTREMELY noisy. They would probably be rejected in populated areas for that reason alone. At least out here where there are a lot of windfarms being built, mostly in Eastern Oregon, they are notably all away from any population centers (even where the centers are small). I haven't been by one, but articles seem to indicate that nobody wants to be anywhere near them.

P.S. - And also I understand that they're not that slow turning when one considers the size of these things. They're not ten foot tall things! They are HUGE!

P.P.S. - In any case they need to be where there is a lot of wind. Even more than in Washington, DC. Which means the best places are on mountain peaks (from the map I saw once), not where an Interstate is likely to be. :-)


RE: i have a better idea
By PrinceGaz on 10/15/2007 5:07:00 PM , Rating: 4
The answer to all those problems is off-shore wind-farms. There's already a big one being built off the coast of southeast England. Not only does that solve the problem of complaints from local residents but they offshore wind is more reliable so they produce more power overall.

Obviously not all countries are as well situated as the UK for offshore wind-farms (Switzerland for instance would have limited locations to choose from), but where possible they make sense.


RE: i have a better idea
By Hawkido on 10/15/2007 5:51:01 PM , Rating: 1
Indeed, there are locations that make sense to place Wind Turbines. However, the suggestion that turbines should be placed along interstates while intriguing falls short once you start thinking about it. Where the best ground level wind is, also presents environmental issues. One word, Tornadoes! That would F*CK up a wind farm in a hurry... *Chuckle* might blow out a transformer or two before the wind mills get knocked over. LOL All joking aside, Wind Mills have moving parts, this requires maintenance. If you scatter you wind mills over thousands of miles (and these miles are in mostly uninhabited places) How are you going to get skilled people to maintain these Turbines in BFE scattered to high heaven. I mean it's not like they are power lines... You have to do preventative maintenance probably monthly, or more frequently. What happens when major maintenance needs to be done and parts have to be shipped 500 miles out to one of these locations? Those props are huge... some are too large for a Semi to transport.

Granted some of these issues can be worked out, but when it is all said and done and all these other factors are considered, just how efficient are these roadside turbines... The Really Large Sea based ones, good idea.... The Land Wind farms, not so much... Land based solar collectors, okay at best... Make use of the desert.

Space based... Yeah I can see that as being cool... But it will never happen, and this is why... Some liberal hippie will moan that the incoming beam will fry his freaking endangered migratory bird. And that will be it... Trust me the Liberals will not quit; they will always find something to moan about and if they can't they will start making stuff up... Buncha Drama QUEENS! (Emphasis on QUEENS)


RE: i have a better idea
By nothingtoseehere on 10/15/2007 8:52:32 PM , Rating: 2
Many coal and gas plants get their fuel shipped from at least equally far, and they need a lot more weight in fuel than a windfarm needs parts...


RE: i have a better idea
By inperfectdarkness on 10/16/07, Rating: 0
RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 9:54:21 AM , Rating: 2
> "conventional power plants (coal, nuclear) require untold sums of money to mine and refine their base fuels"

Untold sums? Where is this rhetoric coming from? We know the operating costs of coal and nuclear plants better than any other source. Those costs are much less than those from windpower. Nuclear, for instance, runs about 1.66c kWh for operating costs, or about 4-5 c/kWh total cost, counting capital expenditures and decomissioning. Windpower (sans governmental subsidies) generally runs anywhere from 8-12 c/kWh for the best sites...which there aren't many of.

> "how many people are required to operate just 1 power plant?"

For a nuclear power plant, generally around 1000-1500 people total -- but that plant will generate some 2000 - 6000 MW of power, with a 90%+ availability factor, or the equivalent of up to 13,000 1.3MW windmills.

> "Indianapolis. small city (100,000 pop) could easily be sustained by several hundred wind turbines for its nominal power needs"

Oops -- Indianapolis has a population of 785,000 (city limits) or 1,9 million (greater metro area). It uses more power than does Austin.

> "the reality is that the EXHORBIDANT cost of putting solar panels in space, maintaining their orbit, and repairing them from random debris flying by..."

I don't know where you're getting this "flying debris repair" nonsense. Perhaps you've watched too much Planet-ES, but the amount of debris in geosychronous orbit is essentially zero. Even in NEO orbit (which these satellites wouldn't be anyway) the risk is very small.

> "as far as maintaince? i would venture to guess that you would need appx. 2 technicians per 100 mile stretch of highway"

This is your silliest statement yet. Maintenance costs for large wind turbines run ~5% of capital costs/year.
The most commmon problems are rotor and/or gearbox related. Two technicians couldn't even service a problem with these -- the parts are far too large and massive. It takes heavy equipment, and a team of several people.

So maintaning 500-windmill, 100-mile stretch of highway would require roughly $15M/year, a workforce of around 50 skilled technicians...and it would generate only around 1/20 of the total power needed to run a city like Indianapolis.

That does't include maintenance of the high-power cabling between the windmills, the conversion equipment, transformers, nor (worst of all) the energy-storage solution required to power the area when the wind isn't blowing.


RE: i have a better idea
By Oregonian2 on 10/16/2007 2:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
All joking aside, Wind Mills have moving parts, this requires maintenance. If you scatter you wind mills over thousands of miles (and these miles are in mostly uninhabited places) How are you going to get skilled people to maintain these Turbines in BFE scattered to high heaven.


The Oregon wind mills are mostly in the very sparsely populated areas in north eastern Oregon (although there are some proposed ones further west along the Columbia River). People who work on them seem to be available, I suppose if the price is right somebody will do it. The windmills also need to be near major electric transmission lines so that the power has a way of getting somewhere. Doesn't have to feeding the local area with power, but at least needs to be passing through.

Problem about windmills also seems to be that they're production limited. Projects are moved out just because windmills aren't available for some time even though the makers of them are expanding production. Makes prices go up for them too. Great business to be in right now. :-)


RE: i have a better idea
By FrankM on 10/15/2007 4:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
I've once seen a picture, but unfortunately can't find it now: if a part of the Sahara desert, around a 0.01% surface of the Earth was covered in solar panels, we'd have many times as much energy as what is used today.
There. Cheaper to build, cheaper to transport, cheaper to maintain. It needs an improved energy grid, however, and it would be located in a third party country.
The US could still try this in the Nevada desert, for example.


RE: i have a better idea
By Ringold on 10/15/2007 4:53:47 PM , Rating: 2
If it were truly that easy, barring environmentalists blocking it to save the scorpions, a multi-billion dollar utility company would already be doing it so as to secure their eternal monopoly on all of Earth..


RE: i have a better idea
By nothingtoseehere on 10/15/2007 8:57:49 PM , Rating: 2
"The US could still try this in the Nevada desert, for example."

The magic number of a single plot of 100x100 miles for supplying all electricity in the US:

http://www.nrel.gov/pv/thin_film/docs/us_map_pv_la...


RE: i have a better idea
By masher2 (blog) on 10/16/2007 4:43:26 PM , Rating: 2
Such estimates are usually based simply on total flux over that surface, multiplied by the efficiency of cells. They don't take into account several other factors which would increase the area vastly. For one, the light/dark cycle means that, for solar to ever be more than a fringe solution, energy has to be stored at night. That means a larger area to fill the energy storage system, plus massive losses in conversion, charging, and discharging. We don't even have the technology yet to store this much power. Maybe one day we will though.

Also, a system based in the Nevada desert would require us to transmit power across the entire US, meaning transmission losses of 30-40%. Currently, power in the US is rarely transmitted more than few hundred miles from where its generated, and even still losses average around 7%.

One could get around that by putting several small solar farms in each state. But then you run into a different problem. Few areas are as suitable as the Nevada desert. Rain, clouds, higher latitudes...all reduce the available solar flux. Areas like Seattle, for instance, are lucky to get 1/2 the flux the Nevada desert does.

Put all these factors together, and supplying the entire US electricity needs via solar means an area closer to 200x200 miles...or 40,000 square miles, roughly 33 times the size of the entire state of Rhode Island .

I won't even mention the problems of keeping that vast area clean and (for maximal efficiency) tracking the sun, nor in replacing it every 25-30 years as the panels wear out.


RE: i have a better idea
By roastmules on 10/15/2007 4:55:32 PM , Rating: 3
This is for strategic and tactical military use, to start with - not commercial. Imagine being in a remote desert or jungle, and being able to call up 200 KW of power, continuously. Then move your base a few miles, and get 200KW more. And, don't worry about having to have a jet air-drop fuel.

It could be used later for more peaking demand for commercial reasons, then finally for base-load demand for power.

Also, look at places where building a power plant is more difficult or costly, such as a lot of the 3rd world. Set up a medical clinic and water treatment facility without any centralized power plant.

And, in a disaster situation, a truck with a receiver can bring in power in substantial amounts, quickly.

Reading the pdf document of the report, it indicates that the risk of a power beam being off target is near-zero, and that the consequences would be anti-climactic.

BTW, putting wind power along highways isn't really commercially feasible. There are wind maps that show where wind power has (very) high, medium, and low/zero commercial viability, primarily on top of mountain ranges.


RE: i have a better idea
By Triring on 10/15/2007 10:22:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This is for strategic and tactical military use, to start with - not commercial. Imagine being in a remote desert or jungle, and being able to call up 200 KW of power, continuously.


Or you can target the microwave and focus the intensity like a laser(it is actually called a MASER) and you have the ultimate death ray system in space controlled by one nation.
Reading the article it seems Pentagon wants them in geo-synchronize orbit meaning they will be stationary but the article also states;
quote:
U.S. forces deployed around the world to eliminate the long logistic chain


Talk about cloak and dagger.


RE: i have a better idea
By jak3676 on 10/15/2007 10:55:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are the only person in this whole chain to "get it". This article was never about commercial use - its about the ability to get power to remote corners of the globe for military use. Putting up any fixed station anything (windmill, coal, nuclear, etc) does nothing to solve that problem.


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