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Beamed Space Solar Power Plant To Open In 2016?

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the duck-duck-burn dept.

Power 512

Eric_S writes "Anybody who managed to get a decent city going in Sim City 2000 remembers the microwave power plant; now it seems like a real-world equivalent might be coming up on the horizon. The Pacific Gas and Electricity Company, per this 'interview' with the CEO of Solaren on their affiliated site, announced PG&E's plans to buy 200MW of base-load power from a Solaren beamed space solar power plant by 2016." I wish the skeptic in me would be quiet.

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woot! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465473)


Re:woot! (5, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465833)

This is a dupe of http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/04/14/0317236/PGampE-Makes-Deal-For-Solar-Power-From-Space [slashdot.org]. They announced this in April.

Hell, the linked interview in summary is in the original story from MSNBC.com. This submission contains nothing new to add...

Re:woot! (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465903)

2016, yea... right... I won't hold my breath.

Thanks *MarketingTeamUsingBuzzWordsToSpurVentureCapital WithNoRealPlanOrTechnologyInPlace*

In Space (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465477)

In space nobody can hear your company go bankrupt.

There will be a lot of pissed off investors on Earth though.

They should try this over San Francisco (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465481)

Because the people over there are pretty progressive on the green energy front, and if there are any problems it will be over San Francisco.

Nice tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465491)

"whatcouldpossiblygowrong". Yea, let's never do anything unless the safety is known to be 100%.

You have to take risks to move forward.

Re:Nice tag (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465677)

./conservative --on
Who says you have to move forward? You only need to make money. ./conservative --off

Miss (1)

SIBM (1114319) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465495)

I wonder if there are plans to avoid misses. This makes nuclear look good....

Re:Miss (3, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465765)

Satellite in geostable orbit. Receiving station on equator. Receiving station emits guiding signal to satellite, causing satellite to beam power to earth. If the guiding signal is missing, the satellite stops beaming power and starts using that power to adjust it's position. That's how I'd do it.

Re:Miss (5, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466025)

A bit more subtle: The transmitter is using a phased array, and the locking phase is a reflection of the signal from the ground. This is a completely fail-safe system: It doesn't have a machine that says "reference signal gone": if the reference signal disappears, the beam turns into a glow by the laws of physics, not by any allegedly safe automation. And the beam can *only* be aimed at something with an appropriate reflector, so even a mad scientist cannot redirect the beam to a city.

Funny... (5, Funny)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465499)

Why do I picture human-sized ants under a magnifying glass when the beam shifts a little.

Sim city (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465639)

This is Sim Copter 1 reporting heavy casualties...

Human Size Ants (5, Informative)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465767)

Because you haven't run the numbers on the beam power density. The Microwave beam is wide, because it's trivial and cheap to make a huge ground antenna, and because agriculture can be carried out under the antenna. THe beam power density can be held down to just a few times noon sunlight power, and still deliver plenty of energy.

That way, both airplane and albatross are safe to transit the beam area.

Re:Human Size Ants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465813)

a few times noon sunlight power

I would prefer not to be exposed to a few kilowatts of microwaves per square meter, thank you very much.

Re:Human Size Ants (3, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465879)

Then again perhaps we can use an albatross to lift this system into orbit as we certainly lack launch capacity for almost anything right now.

Re:Human Size Ants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465931)

Somethings seems wrong with this reasoning.

First, a "few times" noon sunlight power, I think would be pretty brutal. To take you literally, it would be like standing in the sun at noon where the sun is say three times brighter than it is. I'm not a physicist, so feel free to tell me why a three times more power sun at noon wouldn't be a problem for me.

Doesn't a "few times" noon sunlight power mean that your getting only a "few times" what you'd be getting from the sun by itself, which isn't all that much. Doesn't sound like your going to deliver the concentrations of power that cities need.

So, I'm inclined not to put too much stake in what you said.

Re:Human Size Ants (4, Informative)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466167)

First of all, the power being there doesn't mean that you absorb it. We're talking about microwaves (and not the cooking kind). It's not visible light or ultraviolet. You won't notice a thing. You won't get a sunburn.

Second, rectennas are stupidly efficient: 87%. We can barely get to 50% with solar. Furthermore, it's a lot cheaper to build a kilometer of rectenna than a kilometer of solar panels, and you can actually use the land underneath for something useful. And also unlike conventional solar, this thing would work all day and all night, every day of the year.

Re:Human Size Ants (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466187)

1) you're, not your. Learn it.
2) We can covert microwaves into electricity with much greater efficiency than sunlight.

Re:Human Size Ants (5, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466201)

Somethings seems wrong with this reasoning.

First, a "few times" noon sunlight power, I think would be pretty brutal. To take you literally, it would be like standing in the sun at noon where the sun is say three times brighter than it is. I'm not a physicist, so feel free to tell me why a three times more power sun at noon wouldn't be a problem for me.

Sunlight has two components that make it uncomfortable or dangerous. First is the infrared, which is the heat energy. Second is the Ultraviolet, which can damage skin cells. Because the energy is not in infrared or UV radiation, you will experience neither of these effects. If you're worried about microwave radiation, remember that this includes the frequencies that make up the WiFi, Bluetooth, and AM/FM radio waves that pass through your body all the time.

Secondly, Doesn't a "few times" noon sunlight power mean that your getting only a "few times" what you'd be getting from the sun by itself, which isn't all that much. Doesn't sound like your going to deliver the concentrations of power that cities need.

So, I'm inclined not to put too much stake in what you said.

Converting electrical power to and from microwave radiation is an order of magnitude more efficient than solar. Also remember that the solar panels placed in space have a large surface area than the antenna, receive more solar energy per area (due to not having losses due to the ozone layer, etc), and can beam power 24/7. So imagine if the sun was 4x more powerful, and the solar panels were 80% efficient, rather than 20%. Using these (thumbnail estimate) numbers, that makes microwave 16x more efficient per unit area than solar. It becomes even more efficient when you take into account that the sun is not as bright at other times of the day (such as 8AM, or 11PM).

And yes, I am an Electrical Engineer.

Re:Human Size Ants (2, Interesting)

Tx (96709) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466237)

Since the OP didn't reply, I'll have a stab.

"First, a "few times" noon sunlight power, I think would be pretty brutal."

The OP was talking about transiting the collection area, not camping out there. Also we're talking about microwaves rather than visible/UV from sunlight, you will have to ask someone else what the equivalent energy of 3x noon sunlight in microwave form will do, but the point is we're not simply talking about noon sunlight x3, it's not visible/UV at all.

"Doesn't a "few times" noon sunlight power mean that your getting only a "few times" what you'd be getting from the sun by itself..."

Again, we're talking microwaves. Microwaves can be converted to electricity with an efficiency of 75% plus using a rectenna, this is many times the best efficiency we can currently achieve with visible light (typically ~15%). So if you have a beam energy density 3x sunlight, and a conversion efficiency 5x photovoltaics, that give you and output energy 15x what you would get directly converting sunlight using photovoltaics, not just 3x.

Introducing the Boeing 747 hybrid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466123)

Hey, why don't we make hybrid airplanes. Just after the takeoff the plane flies over a series of ground antennas just outside the airport to recharge.

Re:Funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465899)

Not Bad! Pretty much what is going to happen.
Now as to a realistic solution. Those unbelievably stupid Californians haven't figured out that what they need the power for is AC. The ocean off shore is cool and all they need to do is transport the cool inland a bit. Then nobody has to pay for some generator to cool them. It also doesn't peak load the grid. No smart grid needed. Wow! How dumb can they get! All I had to do is stand shivering at Half Moon Bay in mid June to learn this. The ocean off shore is COLD. Of course that doesn't put PG&E into insane control like they want to be.
Besides, what happens to "Global Warming" when we start piping down this heat to the earth from locations that were not currently heating the earth? Not a real good idea.

At least they've got courage ... (4, Insightful)

hargrand (1301911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465507)

... even if they haven't got a clue as to how financially reckless they're being. You kind of have to admire that.

Re:At least they've got courage ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465607)

The only reckless people are the ones investing in Solaren because they heard that PG&E plans to buy power from them. The others are in on the scam.

Now why do I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466005)

that Henry Waxman is somehow going to reap a windfall from this?

Economical for remote power (2, Informative)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465945)

Folks like the US military are interested. It's expensive to ship fuel for generators to remote outposts. At those prices for power, SPS are competitive. You also get to remove one logistics vulnerability.

Re:Economical for remote power (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466161)

Words like "economical" mean something COMPLETELY different :)
You are looking for "convenient" and for costs you are most likely looking at "astronomical" unless someone makes a cheap antigravity device soon.
Also since it's only 7 years away they should already have a final design and a rocket booked for launch. They haven't? Then this reminds me a lot of the Cape York Spaceport scam in Australia which was run by two people with a small office and a telephone.
Broadcast power still faces the same major problem there was right back at the time of Tesla - how do you collimate the beam tightly enough that it doesn't spread out and you lose most of the power? Even a laser spreads out a lot over large distances

Demand? (4, Interesting)

ComputerDruid (1499317) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465509)

While this kind of power beaming technology is possible, I can't imagine that it's all that efficient. Are we really low enough on other forms of power that there will be enough demand to support this kind of remote endeavor?

For specific applications, YES! (Remote Military) (4, Interesting)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465723)

For specific kinds of applications, yes, there is demand. DARPA is interested in this, because electronics use, and there fore electricity use, by the military has expanded tremendously, even in remote locations. A diesel generator has to receive a constant supply of fuel. This is very expensive and inconvenient on the top of a mountain in Afghanistan. A solar power receiving station doesn't. The power supply is invulnerable to attack. The receiving station doesn't make constant noise. In such contexts, power delivered at rates an order of magnitude higher than commercial generation is very competitive.

We should build something like the Iraqi Super-cannon. The thing was built out of 70's tech and was slated to deliver stuff to orbit for $600/Kg. We could improve on that with new tech and mass production of the rocket-boosted projectiles. Construction materials for SPS could be packaged to survive the G's of being shot out of a cannon. Even electronic components could be built to survive. The US government has specs for electronic components that can survive 100,000 G. (Yes, one hundred thousand!) That would make SPS much cheaper.

Re:For specific applications, YES! (Remote Militar (0, Troll)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465789)

You don't have power on top of a mountain in Dumbfuckinstan? Why the hell did you go there?

Re:Demand? (4, Interesting)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466149)

On power: The object of the exercise is to put the solar arrays in space, cut out all the atmospheric attenuation due to air and clouds, and then send the power down using microwaves, on wavelengths that are not significantly attenuated by air and clouds.

On pointing: You've never heard of electronically-steered phased array radar, have you?

On efficiency: When the Jet Propulsion Lab tested microwave power beam technology in the 1960s, between two mountains several miles apart, they were hoping to get 63% transmission efficiency. They actually got over 80%. (I think the number was 88%, but don't quote me.)

The key concept on the efficiency question is that solar power in space is effectively unlimited, when compared with available solar power at ground level, because of atmospheric attenuation of light. (Photographers who shoot outdoors know all about this.) Once you have unlimited power at the head end, you don't really care very much about losses due to beamforming.

My source on this is a talk given by Jerry Pournelle in Austin TX in the late 1970s. His slides included photographs of the actual test apparatus, including one of the lit-up light board at the receiving site.

Bullshit (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465515)

There is only one advantage to space based solar power: Essentially no night in space. That is not a good enough reason to shoot that much material into a geostationary orbit. Solar cells age faster in space due to hard radiation. The losses from wireless power transmission further reduce the feasibility. If anyone builds a solar powered microwave beam in space, that is clearly weapons technology, not even dual-use technology.

Re:Bullshit (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465669)

If they use PV "solar cells" then yeah, I call bullshit too. I don't think they could possibly get enough into geosync orbit to generate 200MW.

Now mirrors focused on something to spin a turbine powered generator I can almost swallow. Can they build it by 2016? I'm skeptical too.

How about if we just eliminate the NIMBY aspect and build some of those mirror focused steam turbines on the ground first, and build out the transmission infrastructure so that Nebraska corn farmers who want to put up wind turbines can get the power they produce to the grid.

Re:Bullshit (2, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466057)

The problem with that is the cold end - it is actually rather difficult to dump heat in space, since you are rather well vacuum insulated. You need a very big radiator, shielded from the sun (presumably by your primary mirror). Which brings the mass required back up again.

Re:Bullshit (4, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465869)

It's not just the lack of night, but not having the atmosphere block out a lot of light before it hits your solar cells.

Sim City was fiction. The microwave beams here aren't concentrated enough to be useful as any sort of weapon, either purposely or accidental. The frequencies choosen need to be transparent to water (since it'll have to cut through a lot of it to get to the surface), and the "beam" is spread over a wide area to make simple rectenna receivers possible.

Re:Bullshit (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466221)

Also, a parabolic reflector a mile across made of mylar film would only weigh a few thousand tons instead of millions, would not rust or be blown apart, is much more easily steerable. As pointed out in other posts, efficiencies in excess of 80% can be expected for the beam down, and the system can quite easily be "de weaponised" so that it can only beam to something saying, effectively "hit me".

Global warming? (2, Interesting)

steelmaverick (936668) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465519)

I'd be concerned with maybe its effects on the weather, maybe global warming. Also, this could affect radio communications on Earth. Or perhaps not, since it probably would operate off of a different frequency. Personally I think that geothermal energy is still a method of energy production that has yet to be tapped on a more massive scale. Why put up satellites and beam power back to Earth when we have excellent sources of power here?

Re:Global warming? (2, Interesting)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465631)

My thoughts exactly. Have we really tapped all the energy sources here that are reasonable? Apart from the what if it misses and fries someone question, this project would beam extra energy into Earth's energy system. One system might not have a strong effect but lets not forget the law of conservation of energy here.

Law of conservation of energy (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465821)

lets not forget the law of conservation of energy

Yes, by all means let us conserve energy. I mean, there may not be enough to go around. Letting all that energy escape into the vastness of space is wasteful.

Re:Global warming? (2, Informative)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465909)

Personally I think that geothermal energy is still a method of energy production that has yet to be tapped on a more massive scale.

Strictly speaking, you are correct, geothermal is a method that hasn't been tapped on a massive scale (outside of a few places like Iceland). Problem is, there are issues with induced earthquakes with geothermal. Google Basel Geothermal for an example...

Re:Global warming? (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465911)

you know i have been wondering about geothermal myself. IIRC current thinking as to why mars died is because it cooled too fast. no molten core means no magnetic field which means the atmosphere gets stripped away by the solar winds.

So what happens when we start leeching heat from the earth. would we, could we siphon off so much to accelerate the cooling of the outer core?

Thoughts like this make me think that maybe its better to add energy to the system rather than remove it.

but then again this is wild conjecture.

Re:Global warming? (2, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465923)

What exactly is the issue with diversifying our efforts? There is no rule that states we can only work on one type of technology at a time. I'm tired of all of this "we shouldn't be doing X before we do Y" crap.

Re:Global warming? (5, Interesting)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466053)

I asked this question of an Environmental Physicist. The answer is that it will *prevent* global warming. The reasoning is this:

Right now, we primarily burn coal to produce energy. This isn't an efficient process at all, putting out about 30% energy and 70% heat. Also, there are all the waste products dumped into the atmosphere associated with burning coal. Meanwhile, beaming the energy back to the Earth will (theoretically) be very, very efficient, as in almost all the energy beamed back will be reclaimed as electricity. Replacing coal with this method would reduce the overall heat by 70%.

So yes, this idea will heat the Earth, but not nearly as much as coal. As far as causing other weather changes, health problems, and electronic problems, those are possibilities that are unknown until they try it. The signal should be directed quite precisely to their receiver on Earth, and with any intelligence, they will have a safety system such that the beam shuts off immediately if the receiver notices a dip in power.

Re:Global warming? (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466177)

Also I would imagine that whatever power this microwave generates is absolutely insignificant in comparison to the output of the sun.

Woops sorry about your farm... (2, Funny)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465523)

My mirror up there in the sky got dinked by a marble sized piece of green cheese and burned up your crop. But don't worry about green, in paper form, cheese form or your crops because you won't be needing those eyes as you looked up at the unusual shiny bright thingy.

"Solaren Insta-Tan (tm)" (3, Funny)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465569)

Ah, that's one way to get a quick tan I'm sure.

We could sell time in it to celebrities.

Or just run animals* through for quick roast dinners.

* or celebrities

I'm a celebrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465791)

Get me out of here!

Re:"Solaren Insta-Tan (tm)" (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465937)

I hate to rain on your +Funny parade, but it's ultraviolet radiation that causes a tan.

Microwaves will just heat you up to about a depth of 1cm.

Dear Canada (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465599)

Memo from the United States
February 12th, 2020

Dear Canada,

Yesterday a piece of space trash knocked our Microwave Power Plant operating over Oregon off target from its station. Unfortunately, it continued to beam a strong powerful ray of energy down as its sights fell over your Western provinces. We are sorry.

We urge you not to think of it as "a swath of destruction" so much as "a wicked cool tattoo" ... I heard Mexico is very jealous.

Williston Lake was a very beautiful lake right up until it evaporated ... but look on the bright side--there sure the hell ain't no zebra mussels left in there now!

We're also sorry that instead of shutting it down, we just swung it back over Canada to its power station in Oregon and next time we will totally just stop it before this happens. To make up for it, we'll send you some extra power so your people stop rioting and Mad Maxing.

We hope there's no hard feelings,


The United States

It's not a laser! (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465885)

The power densities involved are way too low for anything like this to happen. (Only about 3X the worst noontime sunlight.)

Re:Dear Canada (0)

networkconsultant (1224452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466089)

Dear America

We regret to inform you that the lake you vaporized was one of the major sources feeding most of your aquifers. And Due to mass riots in the western provinces And sheer firestorms from the Oil Sands vapor that Gas prices will now be $10 / gallon.

We have instituted martial law however the natives have decided to torch the white house again; we do apologize we decided that it would be nice to treat them like people; that and they are the only canadians allowed assult weapons and rocket launchers; we have tried to control them previously but sadly we decided that it was a sensitive issue and the budgets for the military force required to opress them were spent fighting terror in Afgahnistan and improving the health of our citizens. Sadly due to the number of joint reserves on the unmanned and undefended border we expect they should arrive in washington posed as tourists in a few minutes. You'll be able to spot them as they will be increadably polite and kind hearted people and they may ask for some directions whilst there. We in no way endorse this action and will seek legal action should they survive.

Due to Saskatchewan burning up and rioting, cigar lake has been flodded again and Uranium prices will now soar and as a result I fear that we may not be able to supply your UxO for all those nuclear reactors you have. I understand this will aid non-proliforation but it has the unfortunate side effect of leaving a few hundred million people in the dark. We have switched all available hydro power to our own supplies thus we can no longer export it as we did previously; this will leave New York, Chicogo, Boston and most of the eastern seaboard in the dark. In addition to this the Fly's have some how mutated due to the microwave interaction with the lakes resulting in gigantisam; and they are now capable of removing large vehicles from the 401, last we saw them headed for california; we've tried raid and a number of other insecticides but they seem impervious some how.

I understand that the sheer lack of power will affect your various exchanges and we are very sorry however I'm certain the Nasdaq, Chicogo Mercantile, NYSE and NYNEX aren't very large and that markets may be provided by TSE, VSE, Brut and Archipellego in your economic stability's absence.

Since we do have lots of fresh water it will now be tarried the taxes now applied to exports should put the price at $1000 USD / L to make up the losses due to destruction, also we now request the 6 billion owed for previous software lumber disputes, we also ask that you prorate the amounts to compensate for your weak dollar.

Signed, The Right Hon. Governer General of Canada.

Ouch! (4, Funny)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465641)

From the Wikipedia article linked:
"In 1964, William C. Brown demonstrated a miniature helicopter equipped with a combination antenna and rectifier device called a rectenna."

Heh, rectenna sounds like some alien probing device.


Re:Ouch! (2, Funny)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465769)

As someone who has been abducted by aliens, I can confirm that it is indeed a probing device, but not the worst kind they have.

Re:Ouch! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466159)

It was me who first modded him informative. It was a joke - laugh. In fact, I encourage other modders to mod him informative too!

cool but (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465659)

if everything works perfectly this will be awesome, but nothing ever works perfectly and just the thought of the things that can go wrong scares the hell out of me.

Dupe from months ago? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465661)

I think I remember seeing the same story, here on /., _months_ ago.

Re:Dupe from months ago? (2, Funny)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465735)

I think I remember seeing a search feature, here on /., _pixels_ ago.

Who's going to be the first to use it? You? Me?

The suspense is terrible.... I hope it lasts.

Re:Dupe from months ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466157)

Your're correct. Timframe I'm not sure about though.

I hav noticed /. having a lot of news coming up that has been reported earlier on /.. Not only months it can be years in between even. I remember 2 reportings of using Virus for fighting canser and it was years between, at least felt like years between the 2 reports.

The 2:nd report was more informative thouhg.

I'v considerd /. site to be a site that reports about the newest news thefore I'm bit suprised of the repitedness here. And also that drains /. image of reporting the latest news. /. If repetitions is done please link to earlier reports of the same thing.

My religion, or yours? (-1, Troll)

thethibs (882667) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465673)

This is what happens when you get your religions mixed up.

Cheap, clean, non-fossil power sources mean both low pollution (religion #1) and reduced carbon emissions to stop global warming (religion #2). But this hare-brained idea will heat the atmosphere and bring solar energy to the surface that would otherwise miss us entirely. This puts Green in conflict with AGW. It should be interesting to watch the sparks fly.

Re:My religion, or yours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465743)

This puts Green in conflict with AGW. It should be interesting to watch the sparks fly.

Don't worry, once the satellite is in orbit, it can just beam the death ray at its opponents.

Science/tech illiteracy (5, Informative)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465795)

But this hare-brained idea will heat the atmosphere


Most power generation schemes are *heat engines.* The typical efficiency is less than 40%. Microwave transmission starts at 50% efficiency, and is likely to get better. For the same amount of electric power, you're going to have less waste heat than with coal, nuclear, or natural gas power plants.

Re:Science/tech illiteracy (2, Informative)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465873)

All current power generation schemes are using energy that already exists on Earth. This would be bringer extra energy to Earth, increasing the total amount of energy in the Earth system. To be fair, though, unburned coal wouldn't be adding to the temperature of the Earth, even if it is still technically energy.

Re:Science/tech illiteracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465891)

Science/tech illiteracy indeed. Microwaves are not a power generation scheme, they're a transport scheme. 50% efficiency is very low for getting power from A to B. Also, space based power will indeed put additional energy into our system, which would otherwise have gone past Earth and vanished into space.

Re:My religion, or yours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465825)

What is the old saying? Quality, Time, and Cost? I guess in this instance we get Cheap, Clean and Safe. You can only have 2.

Re:My religion, or yours? (5, Informative)

Quantumstate (1295210) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465843)

Based on Wolfram Alpha the Earth gets about 1.3 kW per square meter. with the earth being 6.4*10^6 m radius with find the area facing the sun is pi*r^2 = 1.28*10^14. Multiplied by the power gives 1.67*10^17 W hitting the earth. Now since the power company wants to sell 2*10^8 W of power we can conclude that the extra energy reaching the Earth would be in the region of 0.0000001%.

Extra Energy? (2, Interesting)

Ironix (165274) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466245)

Actually, isn't the satellite simply intercepting the energy that would have made it to the Earth anyhow?

If this system has about a 50% efficiency, then isn't this satellite actually blocking the other 50% of said energy from actually ever reaching the earth?

Re:My religion, or yours? (1)

condour75 (452029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465919)

Yes, well some day maybe we'll have the ability to quantitatively compare two scenarios. I hear mathematicians are working on some new fangled thing called a comparison operator.

Re:My religion, or yours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466049)

Low pollution is a religion? Sounds like common sense to me. That's always desirable. Zero emission/effects is an impossible ideal, but low*er* is definitely better.

And the attraction for non-fossil fuel power sources should be fricking obvious: fossil fuels are non-renewable and are therefore fundamentally unsustainable, and where the main resources remain are often politically unstable countries. I.e. we'll have to move off them eventually, or there are good strategic reasons to do so earlier. The thought that they'll serve us forever and we can carry on with "business as usual" is the real "religion". It's bogus. We have big energy challenges ahead.

You'll note that I haven't dealt with the issue of reduced carbon emissions or global warming -- because they're irrelevant. There are ample independent reasons to move away from fossil fuels at the earliest practical convenience, even if you think global warming is "religion".

Re:My religion, or yours? (5, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 4 years ago | (#28466239)

Actually, no, it won't heat the atmosphere significantly.

"Atmospheric heating from microwave loss" is another word for "atmospheric attenuation". The trick is you choose microwave frequencies that are not significantly absorbed by nitrogen, oxygen, and water (dihydrogen monoxide), and that knocks out your atmospheric attenuation problem right there.

This is Physics 102, people.

Your real losses are going to be in beamforming and beam wander. You fix beam wander by using a BIG receiving antenna (which also lets you use low power density in the beam: win-win).

Whoops (0)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465693)

Flight 104: Pasadena control there seems to be a green light comming from space

Pasadena Control: Flight 104 what flare?


Pasadena Control: Come in flight 104, flight 104 come in... what's going on?

Dessert topping AND floor wax (3, Funny)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465731)

It's a power source and a weapon in one! Don't F with us or we'll turn our eco-friendly power beam on you!

not much of a story (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465757)

PG&E doesn't commit itself to anything significant. It's cheap advertising for both the startup and for PG&E.

Sim City 2000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28465763)

Didn't anyone PAY ATTENTION when building this type of power plant in Sim City 2000?

It's not a laser folks, stop crying? (1)

cfalcon (779563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465809)

A microwave power transmission of this magnitude will use a broad cross section for the beam, such that a big power station is required to absorb the power. If it was suddenly turned and flipped across several miles in a couple seconds, the total amount of extra energy delivered to anyone or anything would be unnoticeable- and microwaves are not ionizing radiation in any event, so if anything bad were to happen, it would be via heat. Does the fact that a person would supposedly be able to be on top of the collector make me want to hang out on top of one? Of course not. But this is not a big deal. It's safer that nuclear power, and that's pretty safe. But unlike nuclear plants, it can't be meaningfully targeted by terrorists any more than any power plant could be.

Look on the bright side... (3, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465811)

[off topic] You can make the world's largest microwave oven... [/off topic]

I noticed this little tid bit:
200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period.

How much does that compare to the energy needed for getting it up in space, getting routine maintenance & repair up in space, the maintenance & repair itself, and possible decommissioning?

Assuming everything goes well (2, Interesting)

FaytLeingod (964131) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465847)

Assuming everything goes well and this becomes a viable source of energy What stops any oil producing nation from blowing it up?

Re:Assuming everything goes well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466017)

The threat of US military invasion.

What could go wrong? (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465849)

The list is endless. I wrote a short story once about a future similar to King's Gunslinger where technology has failed and nature has reclaimed most of our roads and infrastructure and people travel on a road burned into the earth by a slowly orbiting solar reflector that scorches a trail across the world. Of course you gotta know when to get off that road!

Military funding (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465859)

The only reason this might work is that it could get military funding. Of course nobody has "death ray" in mind when they come up with designs like this.....

200MW. (-1, Troll)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465921)

It seems the world's electrical needs are a bit larger. [google.com] And with the immanent collapse of net oil production, [theoildrum.com] We're going to have to treble that capacity in the next 15 years. Per the first link, at 200MW per satellite, we'll need 82,995 satellites to MATCH present electrical production capacity. And treble that number to match future capacity and the downturn in watts per capita from the loss of oil, making it more like 248,985 of these things buzzing overhead to deal with future electrical needs.

So, let's say (obviously) we're not going to use energy sats for all of our electrical needs. Let's say only 10% of our needs. That's still about 8,300 200MW satellites. What part of "not going to happen" do these people not understand?

Even if the WORLD cut it's electrical needs in HALF, that's still 4,140 200 MW satellites.

Game Over. Thanks for playing.

It's not all "doom and gloom". It's not the "end of the world". It's just that for the first time, we really can see it from where we stand, and it's not that far away or that hard to get to. It's going to take a boat load of work and enormous sacrifice to get humanity through the 21st century. And 200 MW energy sats are NOT the solution.

We're going to have to make "other arrangements" for civilisation to continue. And they don't include Xbox, SUVs, McMansions, weekend vacations Tahiti, and WalMart.


Occam's Razor. (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#28465995)

While this might be cool tech, and may even work, it's using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

There absolutely has to be dozens upon dozens of more efficient, less complex, and easier to maintain ways of generating power.

huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466013)

in the article they mention that an advantage of their system is that sunlight can be captured outside the atmosphere, so that it is 10x stronger (no attenuation losses). However, they *do* have to beam the energy back through the atmosphere right? Doesn't that annihilate the advantage?

Solar Flares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28466139)

So with trying to put solar cells in space they forgo the protection the the atmosphere gives from the sun's non-visible rays. Solar flares and solar storms are going to be huge issues of them. If these events don't destroy the solar cells, they will surely muck up the microwave transmittance to the ground station, and they could cause catastrophic power surges.

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