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Solar Power Satellites by 2020?

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the ringworld-version-0.0001 dept.

Space 226

soulfuct writes: "Finally, a national space agency has budgeted funds for a test project to convert solar energy in space to microwaves and beam them down to Earth. They plan to deploy this for use by 2020. Kudos go to the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and Kyoto University for being the first to realistically act on the idea of solar power satellites promoted decades ago by Gerard K O'Neill in his book The High Frontier. With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?"

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Re:power (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#211747)


Seconded. Make Texas the first place to have its humans turned into TV dinners.

Other countries to consider frying include France and Israel.

Re:power (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#211748)


Only two things come from Texan ... queers and faggots. Kind of like California and India. Fuken dot heads.

I have a friend who is Indian, Nakoruru. I don't know if it is a he or she since they all look the same. This is what I said to him/her when I first met it:

Nakoruru, what is that, Indian? Go make me a slurpee, Nakoruru, and give me one of those little "wassup" ligthers, too. I love that shit. Is it true you people eat your own children? I think I'll pass on that hot dog, Nakoruru. I don't want to be muching on little Nakoruruette. Hey, what are you doing? Why are you unzipping your pants? Put your pants back on! Oh ... I get it. "Little Nakoruruette." Ha ha. Cripes, look at that thing. Looks like a fleck of curry. How do you wack off with that, wrap that little dot on your head around it? Okay, I gotta go Nakoruru. See you tomorrow morning when I get my paper and coffee, ya little sand nig you.

'Cause its just (Political) Rhetoric (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#211749)

DUH!!! Obviously, bush is saying this stuff because enough Americans (albeit an appearant minority) are environmentally savvy the Bush (or an advisor) has realize they need to be appeased somehow -- and the way politicians appease is by eloquent words that don't mean anything. Even if some people are aware enough to see through, the masses have beceom lulled enough here to scoff at them and say "Bush said it was a crisis, and he's gonna...."

Personally, I'm not too comfortable with powerful microwave beening beamed at Earth. I think using all the potential space wasted in the form of roof-top for power might be better; snd using it to electrolyze hydrogen might not only be a good form of alternate auto feul, but a compact and effective (if not perfectly effcient) way of saving the power for a rainy day (pu intended) -- at least better than batteries or giant coils, I suspect.

Maybe US should call in European monetary debts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#211750)

Don't have the cash to pay off your loans? That's OK. We accept land.

Just do the free space path loss calculation... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#211751)

This guy is totally off his rocker. There is the simple problem of free space path loss. Let us do the math:

First, lets suppose you could invent an antenna that could produce a beam so narrowly focused that it would travel from geosynchronous orbit (~25,000 miles out (4e7 meters)) to earth and only spread into an area that is 500' (152m) in diameter (this is totally and completely impossible, but we will use it as a hypothetical example). so:

a sphere has a surface area of 4/3*pi*r^3. That would be 4/3*pi*(4e^7)^3. Next, our receive ara is 500 sq ft. so pi*(152)^2. Using this, we convert to dB for simplicity:

10* Log(4/3*(4e^7)^3 / (152)^2) = 185.6 dB gain. (yes, I've made some simplistic assumptions and simplified the calculations, so sue me).

Lets assume the receive antenna is also capeable of an equally ridiculus and impossible gain. So we look at the Friis free-space equation:

Pr = Pt*G1*G2*l^2 / (4*pi)^2 * d^2

where:
pr = power receive
pt = power transmit
g1 /g2 = antenna gains (not in dB)
l = wavelength
d = distance between antennas
oops, out of time, someone else will have to finish this...

But they'll use windows technology (4)

hawk (1151) | more than 13 years ago | (#211755)

And when they crash and send the beam in the wrong direction, we'll get the familiar "BSOD," or "Blue Sky of Death."


Just what *did* you think that cloudy sky that shows up on the startup screen was supposed to mean?


hawk

Re:politics (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#211756)

As someone in the oil industry, I resent that. YOU people have done much to create the crisis with YOUR belief that only opec members should be allowed to make money in the oil business, and frankly that article of faith has done a lot of damage to our ability to fix things. (As has the behavior of the IMF in Venezuela, which really wasn't a nice way to make friends.

As for NASA, part of the problem regarding solar power satellites is that it would require cheap launch. NASA, as I have seen over the past twenty-one years, wants billions upon billions of dollars so they can research cheap launch, but they also very much appear to not want to be successful. Looking at the way they mismanaged DC-X, eventually going with Lockheed's design for the X-33, which doesn't appear to have even been a good-faith effort, is kinda indicative of the problem. They went over budget 50% and are still roughly the amount of the original budget away from flying. Or were, when the program got cancelled. That much money in Roton, and we'd be able to launch solar powered satellites by now.

Re:Fried Geek (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#211757)

As someone in an industry that would be in competition with solar power satellites, from what I know of the design of rectennas for power generation, they would have a strong safety feature in that the waveform characteristics on the satellite would be created by a pilot beam sent up from the ground. They're basically designed so that the beam would be very wide, and locked onto the receiving array.

For more info, check out the usenet group sci.space.policy.

Re:Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 13 years ago | (#211760)

Speaking of nuking cows with megawatts of microwaves, compare that with all the talk about 0.6 watts of cellphone radiation causing brain cancer.

Don't worry about the planes too much (4)

Bwah (3970) | more than 13 years ago | (#211762)

The aircraft thing isn't actually a big deal.

Go out and find (I would bet you could get some example off the net) an aviation sectional chart. You would be amazed at all of the areas marked off as restricted or off limit airspace. (Controlled airspace of all types, military training areas, missile ranges, etc.) Yes there are violations of these areas, and yes there probably would be some violations of uwave transmission beams ... but not very many! Any violation would probably be by private pilots.
(Private pilots in general are pretty good at following the rules. In my exerience anyway. Mostly because the rules tend to make sense. However after spending some time with a few in Yuba county CA, I no longer believe that all of them even try to follow the rules. Or even get a license. Glad I don't live out there ...)

Any incident with a IFR (read as: commercial traffic) aircraft running into a beam would be even more unlikely. Commercial pilots (the ones I've met anyway) are unbelievably paranoid about running into things. These are people who think of inter-aircraft clearance distances in terms of miles! They are very aware of where they are and where they are going. Soooo ... in order to have a commercial flight wander into a beam you would probably have to have both a ground controller and the pilot mess up. And all of the computers involved on both sides get messed up too (or ignored). Not very likely.

The other worry you expressed about uwave interferance is not an issue. We would be talking about a direct beam here. The scatter would probably be quite small, and the restricted airspace around the beam would most likely be large enough to avoid that problem entirely.

So in conclusion to the aircraft issue ... this is nothing new. Controlled access airspace has been around a long time.

As far as birds go ... they are on their own ...
I have a feeling that powersats would hurt far fewer birds than wind generators though.

I think it could be fun trying to design orbits to avoid running any other sattelite with a lower orbit through the beam though ...

In any case it would be good to work all of this stuff out now, with solar power. This paves the way for moving nuke plants (and hopefully fusion plants someday) off the surface and into orbit.

wow, this is getting quite long ....

OUT

safety precautions (2)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 13 years ago | (#211763)

This has been talked about for many years. The trick is to do it safely. High-power microwave being beamed down to anywhere other than the intended receiver can be a serious danger. Imagine if that beam lands on, say, a person.

The most obvious solution, and probably the one that will get implemented in one form or another, is for the receiver to transmit a homing signal for the bird to locate, and the power relay only gets turned on when the homing signal is locked in.

One might wonder, though, what kind of danger could exist if some not-so-nice cracker got into the control system of such a satellite and aimed the beam at someone they'd like to cook...
--

Re:Frying cities.. (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 13 years ago | (#211767)

All people who declare war on humanity (as I did that night) are great. We all have good intentions. But we're always wrong. There is no way to win the war on humanity.

MOD THIS UP!!!! I wish all the neo-anarchists protesting humanity finally linking up around the world would understand this.

Re:Can we even do this yet? (1)

LF11 (18760) | more than 13 years ago | (#211782)

I think you can make things much bigger in space.

It's difficult to have a few hundred square miles of land on earth to collect solar energy. It's quite costly, but not a problem aesthetically to have a huge solar array in orbit. There might be problems with meteorites and similar crud, but there's also problems with wind storms and animals on earth. (not to mention to local kids...)

Plus, you don't have as much energy loss in the atmosphere if you concentrate the energy in a tight beam.

I think.

-lf

Concentrated Power (1)

BobKagy (25820) | more than 13 years ago | (#211783)

In thinking about these types of systems before, I've always wondered if there was some way to do it more efficiently than HUGE solar panels.

So my preferred scheme for this is...

Satelite 1: Orbiting the Sun Mercury distance and focusing sunlight on...

Satelite 2: Orbiting the Sun Earth distance and transmitting the energy to...

Satelite 3: Orbiting the Earth and beaming the power to the ground station.

Figure this way you could collect large amounts of energy in a small space, while limiting the ability to boil away the oceans.

And when they're hacked... (1)

Brento (26177) | more than 13 years ago | (#211785)

From the article:
The direction of the beam's transmission was able to be changed.

Grrreat, it's bad enough that this big device is up there beaming down enough microwave energy to power homes, and it might get accidentally shot in the wrong direction, but you're telling me that these beams can actually be manipulated from the ground? Am I the only one who gets terrified at the thought of some scr1pt k1dd13 who "owns" his first power satellite? Forget testing the viability of the power generation, I wanna see testing of the security. These things are just begging to be hacked, and I'm not interested in waking up baked by microwaves.

Re:damn and i voted Gore (5)

Brento (26177) | more than 13 years ago | (#211786)

Surely the oil companies and their presidential puppet will not stand for this blasphemy.

I know I'm going to get marked as a troll or flamebait for this, but here it comes anyway: Clinton had two terms in office, and Mr. "I Invented The Internet" Gore did what for the California energy crisis? The power problems in California didn't suddenly begin in January when Bush took office - they've been brewing for years. Never heard of Gore doing anything about it, did you? Hmm, don't hear Gore speaking up too much about that energy crisis, do you? Wonder why that is? I don't.

Re:damn and i voted Gore (1)

znu (31198) | more than 13 years ago | (#211788)

The California energy crisis is the result of a horribly botched deregulation plan at the state level. The Bush and Clinton administrations have just about nothing to do with it.

What the Bush administration is doing is pushing the idea that's there's a nation-wide energy crisis, or the threat of one. This is nonsense, but Bush wants to let his Big Oil buddies drill wherever the hell they want, and hopes the threat of $3/gal gas will do a lot to put the public on his side.

Back on topic, I doubt that Bush would be interested in satellite power. First, there wouldn't be any significant progress made before the next election. Second, it doesn't help his big campaign contributors. Bush has shown no interest in alternative energy sources.

Gore, on the other hand, had a set of measures designed to encourage such things, such as money for research and tax breaks for people who drive ultra-low or zero emission vehicles.

--

I doubt these will be allowed by anyone. (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 13 years ago | (#211789)

While a great ide, its also too dangerous a weapons system. I'm not concerned with the beams accidently drifting of the receiver, there are ways to fix that, but try to convinve the public of this.

Re:Can we even do this yet? (2)

gimpboy (34912) | more than 13 years ago | (#211792)

there is a benifit to doing it in space. they dont have clouds in space. the power production would be constant. this is something that isnt always achieveable on earth.

use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (1)

Pfhor (40220) | more than 13 years ago | (#211797)

There are plants in the US that use the big bunch of mirrors system. It actually boils salt(!) which stays incredibly warm for incredible amounts of time. That is then used to boil water for turbine generators.

I think the current bottleneck of electrical energy production is the whole "lets make a bunch of magnets spin" solution. Solutions where you capture the energy from the breaking of atomic or nuclear bonds, will be what will give us boat loads of power. At that level of effeciency, we could even use oil and have it last a lot longer than we think. Right now its "lets get something really hot, make steam, have that steam spin a generator" or in the case of dams or windmills: lets use water / air to spin something.

Re:If you want to get the GOP on board... (1)

Sogol (43574) | more than 13 years ago | (#211798)

dubya [columbiacentral.com] will carefully consider this... and then opt to drill for oil.
"When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." - Abraham Maslow

Sorry (2)

redhotchil (44670) | more than 13 years ago | (#211799)

Sorry, this idea has already been patented by first right by the developers of Sim City 2000. (tm)


©o,,o©©o,,o©©©o,

Re:And when they're hacked... (2)

hattig (47930) | more than 13 years ago | (#211803)

I'm not interested in waking up baked by microwaves
You will know when you are being microwaved though - all those AOL CDs will start arcing electricity before frazzling themselves to death. Should give you ample time to get into your metal lined anti-microwave-attack bunker.

I never thought that AOL CDs were a worldwide early-warning system against Microwave attacks from nasty dictatorships.

Inspiration (1)

Drath (50447) | more than 13 years ago | (#211805)

I hear they got the idea after playing The Bouncer on ps2

NASA has more sense (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#211806)

With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?

I don't know, cause it's fantasia bullshit?

Re:Maybe US should call in European monetary debts (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211807)

Fine - we (the rest of the world) will size all your assets outside of USA, then stop shipping you all those fine things used to enjoy, starting with cars & petrol, computers, TV, etc...

Re:If you want to get the GOP on board... (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211808)

Neato science fiction idea that might be viable in 20 years on a NASA schedule & budget (read 40+ years and $200 billion additional).

Yeah - like the Star wars system ? If it can be done to stop missile that *might* come someday, but has 99.9999% of never happening, why can't it be done to solve an energy crisis that is 100% sure to happen ? Oh yeah, one is a weapon (Republican love weapon and guns) and the other is something that improve the life of everyone on the planet. That's a tough one (at least for Junior, who has the IQ of a pigeon)

NB : sorry for the pigeons out there.

Re:If you want to get the GOP on board... (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211809)

Rebulicans are for less government, **NOT** more poverty, **NOT** more pollution, **NOT** more wars, and **NOT** more racism.

True - unless this goes against the all-sacred holy economy. If republicans must choose between economy vs (evironment, equality, peace, etc) they'll always pick economy. Not only that, they also want less governement but the only thing they offer instead is religion and mega-corporation.

Re:Who down with GOP? (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211810)

I'll grant you many republicans have a 'gun' fetish. We all have our short commings we need to compensate for

I can already imagine what kind of "shortcomings" republican have that create this gun fetish ;-)

I'm not sofistikated enough to understand our President's foreward thinking energy policy,

"Bush" and "forward thinking". Isn't that contradicting ?

Re:Maybe US should call in European monetary debts (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211811)

And your pathetic economies will shrivel and die without the American market place to sustain your industry

That's ok - 1,3 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indians are just waiting to take your place as the largest consummer market. We can do without your measly 300 million consummers, they are all debt riddled anyways.

Re:damn and i voted Gore (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211812)

There's no such thing as a energy-crisis in California. There's an economy crisis, where some capitalist lunatics have deregulated an energy market that was working perfectly fine before, and made it into a mess where the middle-man (the one who buys power and distribute it) is bankrupt.

There's no need to dril for more oil anywhere in Alaska to bring back electricity in California (of course it's easier to claim so that say the truth : "I need to pay back the oil companies who bought my election" )

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211813)

Well I'd say killing a few desert snakes vs raising the ocean level by 5 meters and changing the whole planet climate... would prefer killing the desert snakes anyday :-) . Especially since solar panel would reduce albedo, hence fight global warming.

Re:Bush and Alternative energy (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211814)

Does anyone else feel Bush was voted in the wrong decade?

What is worst is that almost half the country voted for him - yet much more people than that oppose driling in Alaska. Now Bush Junior never hidden his pro-oil positions, so what where those electors thinking ? "oh he is a good christian, and has a nice tie, I'll vote for him ?". You have to wonder...

Re:tax and spend liberal (1)

unclei (55647) | more than 13 years ago | (#211816)

Yes, but writing programs in java ( as unpleasant as it is ) doesn't cause respiratory distress, smog, or acid rain. Efficiency is not always better, but there are much bigger, more important issues here than efficiency. Fossil fuels have *no* serious long term prospects, and their widespread use is damaging the environment.

And here's the bush administration, cutting alternative energy research while increasing our commitment to fossil fuels. Where, do you suppose, are his priorities...

Re:damn and i voted Gore (2)

signe (64498) | more than 13 years ago | (#211821)

Mr. "I Invented The Internet" Gore

You know, every time someone trots out that tired phrase, they instantly lose credibility.

I'm not going to go into the reasons why his "claim" wasn't a claim at all, and even if it was, the people who *did* invent the Internet backed him. It's not worth the old arguments.

-Todd

---

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (1)

thopkins (70408) | more than 13 years ago | (#211822)

This just makes me laugh. You're probably someone who is concerned with saving the environment, as you would rather have solar power than find more petroleum. Yet you want to roll the stuff across acres of the desert or the ocean. Do you know what this would do to the environment?

This would totally mess things up. Ocean temperature would go down since sunlight would be blocked. A change in temperature would kill lots of innocent fishies. You may think "oh it's just the desert nothing lives there" but there is quite a lot of wildlife in the desert. Your plan hurts the environment just as much as burning fossil fuels, if not more.

Can we even do this yet? (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 13 years ago | (#211823)

Does the technology even exist yet to beam energy like this from one dish and collect it in another dish in an efficient and cost effective manner? Nevermind beaming energy from orbit to the ground -- how about beaming it from one dish to another one mile away?

Not only that, but putting solar cells in orbit is expensive. Orders of magnitude more expensive than deploying them here on the ground.

Wouldn't it make more sense to just deploy solar cells here on the ground? If you don't want to set up miles of cells that cover the ground, put them on the roofs of buildings ...

That would cost orders of magnitude less per KWh produced, and it totally bypasses the need for the microwave-beaming-power-technology which I don't think even exists in a usable form yet. That, and we can do it TODAY.

tax and spend liberal (3)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#211826)

With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis...

Slow down cowboy. The rhetoric is coming from the media, not the President. The media-mantra for the past three months has been that the energy crisis will bring down the presidency. Meanwhile gas prices are still cheaper than in 1999 under Clinton and considerably cheaper than in 1978 under Carter. As for the power crisis in California and the potential for a future shortage nationwide, I dont see any rehtoric at all. Clearly there is a short term crisis in California, and a long term problem for the rest of the country. While I am all for science R&D, statements like yours are rediculous. Commercial orbiting solar power stations are many years from becoming a reality along with fusion and mid-ocean tidal power plants. These technologies are exciting and certainly deserve funding and our interests. However, penciling in preposterous "unproven tech" in a national policy has already gotten Bush in trouble with Missile Defense. Do you suggest that he do the same will all of his policies?

There is no world conspiracy to drive up gas prices in the United States other than OPEC. Outside of the OPEC nations, the U.S. consumers enjoy the cheapest gas prices in the world. The energy crisis is one of refineries and a lack power plants.

Conservation is important, but what is more efficient, spending resources to become more efficient or spending resources to generate more power. Look at software engineering. Is /. authored with a custom C-solution. It would be alot faster than perl and appache. Why bother with an OS. Why not write an embedded system, it would be more efficient. Why use a generic relational database and not write something spesifically for your needs. Efficiency does not always translate into better (look at Java, Perl, Python, etc).

Wow, now we will be able to... (2)

smoondog (85133) | more than 13 years ago | (#211828)

Wow we can now cook birds in flight. I wonder what the effects of microwave radiation are on life? Does it disperse on particles in the atmosphere? Will it heat particles/clouds in the atmosphere? Does mild exposure mutagenic? Hmm, I'm totally skeptical of this technology. Perhaps we could use it in space to move around energy, but I don't know about space to earth..

-Moondog

Bush and Alternative energy (2)

horza (87255) | more than 13 years ago | (#211829)

You can see a breakdown of the new budget for renewable energy here [futureenergies.com] . Funding for solar has been cut 49%, as has wind power.

At the same time, Bush plans to build 1,300 new power stations whilst opening the Alaska wildlife reserve for oil exploration.

Does anyone else feel Bush was voted in the wrong decade?

Phillip.

Fried Geek (1)

holos (88324) | more than 13 years ago | (#211830)

Whoops, we accidently pointed this thing at your house, sorry about that.. I'm scared by the thought of high power microwave beams being pointed at me.. Ask any Airplane Ground crew what they think of high power microwave.

Home On Lagrange (1)

dmoen (88623) | more than 13 years ago | (#211832)

This discussion of being fried by a microwave power satellite brings back fond memories of:

Home on LaGrange
Words: Bill Higgins and Barry Gehm c. 1978
Music: "Home on the Range"
Oh, give me a locus where the gravitons focus
And the three-body problem is solved,
Where the microwaves play down at three degrees K
And the cold virus never evolved.

CHORUS: Home, home on LaGrange,
Where the space debris always collects.
We possess, so it seems, two of man's greatest dreams:
Solar power and zero-gee sex.

We eat algae pie, our vacuum is high,
Our ball bearings are perfectly round.
Our horizon is curved, our warheads are MIRVed,
And a kilogram weighs half a pound. CHORUS

You don't need no oil, nor a tokamak coil,
Solar stations provide Earth with juice.
Power beams are sublime, so nobody will mind
If we cook an occasional goose.

INTERLUDE (to Oh, What A Beautiful Morning)
All the cattle are standing like statues.
All the cattle are standing like statues.
They smell of roast beef every time I ride by,
And the hawks and the falcons are dropping like flies...

I've been feeling quite blue since the crystals I grew
Became too big to fit through the door.
But from slices I sold, Hewlett-Packard, I'm told,
Made a chip that was seven foot four. CHORUS

If we run out of space for our burgeoning race
No more Lebensraum left for the Mensch,
When we're ready to start, we can take Mars apart
If we just find a big enough wrench. CHORUS

I'm sick of this place, it's just McDonald's in space
And living up here is a bore.
Tell the shiggies "Don't cry," they can kiss me goodby,
'Cause I'm moving next week to L4!

Re:the problem with solar satellites (1)

soulfuct (91305) | more than 13 years ago | (#211834)

Masers have been proposed to focus a beam of microwaves and avoid interference. They would not be suitable for offensive use, because the beam diffuses out over several square kilometers by the time it hits the ground. Of course, to sell Bush on the idea, you would have to have a refocusable beam that could become small enough to do a simcity style kill.

Re:Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k (1)

soulfuct (91305) | more than 13 years ago | (#211835)

It's my understaning that converting maser transmissions to electricity via antenna should be much more efficient than solar panels. Anyone have more up to date info on the research?

Re:Frying cities.. (1)

soulfuct (91305) | more than 13 years ago | (#211836)

To recap:

Most proposals have been to have a maser beam disperse over several kilometers of land onto a sunlight friendly wire mesh array antenna covering grazing land.

This avoids the weapon issue and the frying issue, since the energy concentration per square foot is low enough to be *mostly harmless*.

Conversion by antenna should be much more efficient than solar panel.

Follow up on non-net research mentioned at cited links for more details. A lot of people have been studying this idea for a long time, but of course the oil companies control all.

Re:Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k (2)

soulfuct (91305) | more than 13 years ago | (#211837)

Actually, the reason why such a large antenna array is needed on the ground is due to the diffusion of the beam. By the time it gets to the surface, it is *mostly harmless* or so it has been said over the years by its proponents. O'Neill and others proposed the construction of a large mesh array antenna that would pass sunlight and could be situated over cattle grazing land. Feasibility studies have been done in the past, and the only real problem was the construction cost in space.

Re:Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k (5)

soulfuct (91305) | more than 13 years ago | (#211838)

(1)By the time it's "mostly harmless," won't it be sufficiently low-energy to be completely useless?

The atomspheric energy absorption is not high enough to make this inefficient and does not really contribute to making this *mostly harmless*. The reason it becomes *mostly harmless* is due to dispersion of the beam over a large area. So, a larger antenna is used to pick it up.

People need to check out the solar power satellites link cited in the post. The safety details have been addressed long ago.

What energy crisis? (2)

jacobito (95519) | more than 13 years ago | (#211839)

Oh, you mean that one the two wealthy oilmen have been talking about? Please.

Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k... (4)

Andre060 (99353) | more than 13 years ago | (#211841)

... in which one of the disasters was one such power station accident in which the sattelite beamed the energy slightly off and fried everything?

Even in circumstances where it is "aiming" properly, wouldn't this be a problem for bird and airplanes? If I can't even use my cellphone for fear of interferance in the plane, what about giant beams of microwave radiation??

Re:Frying cities.. (1)

nido (102070) | more than 13 years ago | (#211844)

The simple fact is that our energy problems are solvable far, far closer to the ground, and for far less money.

For the foreseeable future, this is true... However, that's no reason not to develop new energy sources. What if something is found along the path to this 'power in the sky' scheme that makes it dirt cheap to get power down from orbit? 20 years of development money seems like a small investment..

---

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (4)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 13 years ago | (#211852)

Well, the world isn't the United States. For one thing, the U.S. is home to the world's largest oil companies, which aren't all that interested in anything not coming out of the ground. Another, LAND. Solar farms don't work in Japan, which is, to put it gently, overpopulated. Countries like Japan or England or Germany can't unroll miles of mylar on the ground. Solarsats take all the infrastructure and move it into space, where's there's room.

They are also permanent. Besides the beaming equipment, which I assume burns out after time, the solar cells last for a long, long, time.

And a solarsat isn't fragile -- there is no wind, no rain, no earthquakes, no gekkos. It just works, year after year.

As for cheap, after the initial construction, whatevcer it costs, the sat just keeps paying for itself, without stopping. The well doesn't run dry, there are no spills. And we don't have to pave over the deserts, either.

Not that your idea isn't good! It is pretty cheap to panel desert areas.

Why Isn't NASA Doing This??? (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 13 years ago | (#211858)

Because, there's no whizz bang gee whiz in it. Again, NASA is run by Morons who don't take risks and don't propose new ideas and concepts. Instead they're on the Congressional teat for more and more money every year. We could take 1/4 of the ISS budget and put systems into orbit on Titan IVs. Problem is NASA dosn't like the Titan IVs because their for the AF, NASA uses the shuttle. So, to deploy a low cost solution we spend $500 Million + to launch it not to mention the training costs associated with a manned mission. There needs to be a rethinking in the US Space strategy. The Air Force had it right in the 50's and 60's but NASA got all the funds. Look at project Man High which proved quite a few things that NASA didn't learn until it was well into Mercury. The X-Planes project, hell the X-15 is and was the fastest thing to fly in the atmosphere. Where's the X-33? Ohh, cancelled. Where's all the other stuff NASA is supposed to produce? Nowhere. To big, too cumbersome and too much money. Strip off the new technology research and give it back to the Air Force or MIT or somebody who can do something with it. Not Goldin and his bunch of morons. Just remember $95 Billion for ISS..... You could put up a lot of satellites.. Look at Iridium, although a bad business concept they lanched a lot of birds for a hell of a lot less.

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 13 years ago | (#211859)

Agreed.... NASA is too big and too stupid. Monies need to flow to the private sector to come up with innovation. There's a company in Arizona making inexpensive solar panels in rolls that can be used on roofs in lieu of shingles. I'm thinking of investing in them and buy some myself.

Politics (2)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#211861)

With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?

I would think that the answer to this is obvious: it doesn't involve improving the lot of existing mineral extraction industries. Remember that Dubya is the guy who proposed cutting funding for alternative energy research by 30% as part of his overall energy program. After all, he doesn't want to risk hurting his friends in the oil industry. Something that could actually replace fossil fuels is exactly what Dubya doesnt' want.

Re:Can we even do this yet? (3)

HuskyDog (143220) | more than 13 years ago | (#211866)

I think you can make things much bigger in space.

What a load of old rubbish

List of large man made objects in space:
- International space station
- Ummm

List of large man made objects on earth:
- Empire state building
- Super-tankers
- Pyramids
- etc etc etc

It's not difficult to find large areas of land for collecting solar energy. What do you imagine is in the sahara desert? Well, basically there is a great heap of nothing and lots of sunlight. Yes, there's no people, but running electricty through some cables to europe would still be heaps cheaper than this stupid space idea. And you need lots of room for the receiving antenna anyway.

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (4)

HuskyDog (143220) | more than 13 years ago | (#211867)

Why do we need to use solar panels at all? There are lots of other ways to convert sunlight to electricity which are both cheap and practical provided that you make them big enough.

Three that come to mind:

- Giant circular greenhouse with a huge tower in the middle. Air in the greenhouse gets hot and rushes up the tower which contains a turbine. Cool air enters round the edge. This works and there is a great big prototype somewhere in spain (anyone got any links?). You can grow crops in the green house except for the bit right in the middle where it gets a bit drafty.

- Mirrors like hugs bits if guttering which focus sunlight onto metal pipes with oil in. Oil gets very very hot, boils water, turbine etc. I believe that there are a number of plants like this working in the USA.

- Windmill. Sunlight heats ground, air rises, cold air rushes in and turns blades on great big fan up a tower. Quite a popular solution in many parts of the world.

I predict that all of these solutions will be substantially cheaper than this stupid space power idea until long after all of us are dead.

I'm amazed... (1)

connorbd (151811) | more than 13 years ago | (#211868)

...that anyone takes this idea seriously. It's such an incredibly dangerous idea too -- you don't even need a terrorist attack, just a telemetry malfunction, to fry a city with one of those things.

/Brian

Re:Just don't have them firing down beside cities. (2)

connorbd (151811) | more than 13 years ago | (#211869)

As others have pointed out, it's still a navigation hazard. And you do have to worry about birds falling out of the sky and all.

I remember reading about this idea in futurist books as a kid, and by the time I stopped being interested in this sort of literature (just don't pick much of it up anymore) the idea was already being dismissed. Okay, it diffuses. But that's not much help.

Over-the-air power transmission on any scale larger than what's needed to power a bug (I believe the Russians did this) is too much of a risk. It's an interesting idea that I think someone floated without really giving a lot of thought to it. You could probably do a ground-based version with a massive solar array and a waveguide to pipe the energy where it needs to go, but that would sort of miss the point of the technology, wouldn't it? Putting it out in the middle of nowhere isn't really going the help when you still run the risk of frying anything that flies through the beam (last I checked I didn't think it was common practice for airplanes to reroute around deserts...)

/Brian

power (1)

YetAnotherDave (159442) | more than 13 years ago | (#211870)

now we just need them to send power to california.

Re:And when they're hacked... (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 13 years ago | (#211872)

damm wheres my mod points,
got mod this up :)

The Bouncer (1)

bk1e (176877) | more than 13 years ago | (#211874)

Wow, when I purchased The Bouncer for my PS2, I thought that "satellites converting solar power to microwaves which are beamed down to earth" idea was pure technobabble hokum. Now I see it's not; the people at Squaresoft are clearly good at keeping track of current events. Kudos to Squaresoft for showing what can go wrong with one of these systems.

If there end up being problems with NASDA's system, well, we can just blame Dauragon C. Mikado.

Re:And when they're hacked... (1)

AgentOBorg (178136) | more than 13 years ago | (#211876)

See! Bush doesn't need to invest in building it as a weapon -- he can just hirer a good cracker!

Re:Maybe US should call in European monetary debts (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#211878)

And your pathetic economies will shrivel and die without the American market place to sustain your industry. Then, when you are the lowest point of economic strength, we will offer a bailout package to you and we will own you.

What about getting them in position ? (3)

boaworm (180781) | more than 13 years ago | (#211879)

I just hope they calculated with the energy spent on bringing those solar panels in position. A rocket uses huge amounts of energy to enter orbit.

And what about maintaining.. they gonna send electritions up to the moon when things break... sounds rather costly :)

Thinking Bad thoughts (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#211880)

Several Bad(tm) thoughts (forgive me, it must be the tequila hangover from last night):

Don't give it to NASA, that's the place you send stuff you want to kill off.

We could put put bunches of this stuff along the desert near the US Mexican Border. Not only will we get power, but since the facilites each cover a mile or two, they will act as a natural wall stopping illegal immigration

Yes I know it's sick.

Quit it already with the baseball bats

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

politics (1)

fons (190526) | more than 13 years ago | (#211882)

Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?"

Because they know that Bush just wants to make the oil-industry happy.
That's politics for you. It's not what's best for the country (or the environment) that matters to bush. It's who will pay for his next election campaign.

Re:If you want to get the GOP on board... (1)

fons (190526) | more than 13 years ago | (#211883)

it's cynical, but sadly it's probably a good idea.

Democracy, i love it!

Re:Fried Geek (1)

fons (190526) | more than 13 years ago | (#211884)

Ask any Airplane Ground crew what they think of high power microwave.

why?
what would they answer?

the problem with solar satellites (2)

davonds (196851) | more than 13 years ago | (#211888)

if you can transmit enough energy to power a city, you can also transmit enough power to destroy a city. there is also the question of leakage. even if you use a maser format to transmit the energy, there will be a certain amount of bleed over. a standard satellite broadcasts 5 watts of signal, a dss about 35 watts. a solar satellite broadcasting a few megawatts may very well blank out all other satellite communication.

NASA Suffering From Lack of Leadership (2)

TOTKChief (210168) | more than 13 years ago | (#211892)

With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?

It couldn't be because NASA still doesn't have a new Administrator, could it?

Seriously, the fact that we're 100+ days into the Bush Administration [which I helped vote into office] yet do not have a NASA Administrator--despite having plenty of excellent candidates inside and outside of NASA--is a travesty. It's high time for Bush and his staff to make their pick and get rid of Dan Goldin, who's set NASA back at least ten years.

Re:hmm.. (1)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 13 years ago | (#211896)

The problem is threefold: (1) Large solar panels are expensive and extremely fragile, not something you can easily replace if broken... As it goes, the materials themselves are expensive, rare earth metals and compounds that add to the cost... Amorphous solar panels are even more expensive, and inefficient to boot, leading to: (2) Solar panels are extremely inefficient due to several factors, namely daylight time, clouds and weather, pollution, and that's just the visible culprits... Now I know what you're asking, how can we power the ISS with solar panels but not a city on earth with the same? (3) The earth's atmosphere effectively screens out close to 1/3-1/2 of full spectrum sunlight, which is why our planet isn't (currently) like Venus, and why astronauts have to wear those kewl gold visors during EVA's... The fact that a solar station can be set for a sun facing orbit at all times also means there is no night, no weather, no pollution... Or so we would think... The only downfall will be our existing space junk pollution punching holes through the panels, not to mention micrometeoroids and other stellar debris...

Dr Evil's Next Plot? (2)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 13 years ago | (#211897)

I will use my orbiting solar power stations of death to destroy the world's cities, unless you pay me 10... Million dollars!

C'mon, throw me a fricking bone here...

Delivery through the hole in the ozone layer? (1)

percey (217659) | more than 13 years ago | (#211899)

Obviously one of the necessary ingredients for an expanding economy is to have access to the necessary energy resources. Liken it to fighting a war by cutting off the enemies supply of natural resources. I believe it's a poor idea to experiment with new energy resources by blasting holes in our atmosphere with microwaves. I have spent many months of my life playing various SimCity editions, and if it's taught me one thing that thing is the answer to our problem is fusion. Why aren't we devoting our government research dollars to the one energy source that is the panacea to all our problems? This one sounds to me like a lot of dead birds, and huge potential risks. Personally I'm not opposed to nuclear power plants. I think in conjunction with a national power grid we would have something akin to a client/server energy system. Either that or a peer to peer system with manditory solar cells on everyone's homes. You can complain of the danger of nuclear power, but they're environmentally safe, and I think with the necessary precautions they won't explode. The bigger danger is the unemployment and the de-evolution of society that we risk without energy. Not to mention the burnt out condemned buildings that will pop up with those lightning bolts over them.

By 2020?!? Get the red (tape) out!!! (1)

Ellen Ripley (221395) | more than 13 years ago | (#211903)

Nineteen years until the SPS appears over the horizon?!? Once again, here's the corporate and governmental lack of vision. We could have seen one of these in orbit in 1983!!!

I guess electricity at 1/10th the price isn't sufficient motivation until the lights start going out (if I lived in California, I'd be marching to Sacramento to kick ass and take names, and, oops, I can't write in the dark!)

Ellen

Re:Frying cities.. (1)

Ellen Ripley (221395) | more than 13 years ago | (#211904)

... the laser "signal" from earth (which would presumably only be receivable on a perpendicular to the ground)...
My understanding is that these satellites would have to be in geosynchronous (geostationary?) orbits, like TV satellites. The dirtside equipment would presumably have to pitch and catch at angles like a BUD for TV signals.

Ellen

PS: I've always wanted to ask you about this: "All men are great before declaring war on humanity." Where is it from?

you can't have solar powered sattelites (2)

unformed (225214) | more than 13 years ago | (#211905)

there's no light in space dammit...you remember all the space pictures from nasa...no light

joke (2)

unformed (225214) | more than 13 years ago | (#211906)

that was meant to be a joke...forgot to write: ...joke

Re:tax and spend liberal (1)

mother_superius (227373) | more than 13 years ago | (#211907)

Hemp has 4 times the cellulose of corn and can make 4 times as much ethanol/methanol as corn. Corn ethanol would cost about $2.50/gal, I believe. 2.50/4 = $.625. So if we could legalize hemp, the gas "crisis" would be over, although people who buy the Excursion, which gets 3 mpg city/8mpg highway, write in letters to newspapers complaining about how they have no money. But we can't legalize hemp, because it's a naughty naughty drug. (but it's less harmful than alcohol, and kills less than tobacco).

Re:Microwave Beam fries the city (2)

hillct (230132) | more than 13 years ago | (#211909)

I doubt that targeting would be the problem, unless the collection site was in a geologically unstable site. Suppose for a moment, that equipment was setup in California, to recieve microwaves and convert them to usable electricity. Suppose now that there was seismic activity which cause the reception equipment to go out of alignment with the space based delivery mechanism. Not only would the area have been ravaged by an earthquake, but also the power generation capability of the region would be disabled. Not only would I not be able to get power to my house because the lines were severed, but there would simply be no power to be had. This will make for difficult selection of reception sites for this system. It must be in a geologically stable region, with consistant weather conditions (for predictable gain) and there are probably a number ofother similar considerations.

--CTH

--

Just don't have them firing down beside cities. (1)

Mastagunna (251788) | more than 13 years ago | (#211917)

Just locate them in a empty area. The desert is prime for that. If it misses, we loose a few cacti.

Re:Frying cities.. (3)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 13 years ago | (#211918)

Hi Ellen.. (moderators - I know this is offtopic but please don't kill my karma :)

I think you're right about the transmit and receive angles.. that throws a wrench into my theory. :)

But about my "all men are great before declaring war on humanity," it's actually something that I uttered on IRC while I was talking to my brother. I kind of snapped one night while reading something (I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was something about a person who was imprisoned for something that I don't consider to be wrong). I'm one of those liberal anarchist apologists. :)

Anyway I always considered myself to be a good person.. but every time I read something about a grevious misjustice (guy thrown in jail for 5 years for smoking weed.. 15 year old thrown in jail for "abusing" 16 year old girlfriend (because consent is not possible when you're only 16. Ahem.) or intellectuals threatened or jailed for speaking their mind) I would feel this hate for the perpetrators (read: conservative/religious folks in a position of power). Anyway this one night I was talking casually (on IRC) to my bro about this article I was reading, and it eventually degenerated into a heated argument (only for the sake of argument; he agreed completely) and I started to imagine myself killing the judge.. the police officers.. and anyone involved with removing this person from society. I was totally convinced that I was right, and that the only way to stop the world from destroying itself was to kill all the people who aggressively hunt people they disagree with (whether or not the "criminals" were hurting anyone). This article really fucked me up at the time.

I was in this sort of quiet rage for about half an hour.. when suddenly I realized.. what the hell makes me so damned special? What differentiates me from the people I'm fantasizing about killing (while yelling fuck you agressor - you incarcerate innocent people, you die). It was like.. bam.. everything that I believed I was.. was.. not right.

I kinda dropped a level of conciousness at this point. I think this is what happens before people go insane. :) I don't remember what happened, but apparently I starting saying weird shit for like 15 minutes (that quotation is one of the things I said). When I came to, I was crying. Wierd night, to say the least. :)

I thought.. so this is how it happens.. If you're strong, when you go insane like this, you throw yourself out the window. If you're weak, you grab a shotgun and maul 100 innocent bystandards. If you're lucky like me, you realize that it's time to relax. The world is a fucked up place, and the best you can hope to do is talk.. tolerate.. and try to understand.

All people who declare war on humanity (as I did that night) are great. We all have good intentions. But we're always wrong. There is no way to win the war on humanity. Anyway. That's the story behind my quotation.

--
All men are great
before declaring war

Frying cities.. (5)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 13 years ago | (#211919)

Ok everyone, relax. :)

There is no possibility a city will get fried by microwave energy. First of all, any system beaming energy from orbit would use a laser based targetting system. There would be an electrical cutoff if the laser failed to reach the satellite along the return path (which would presumably not be software controllable). So, if the microwave emitter lost the laser "signal" from earth (which would presumably only be receivable on a perpendicular to the ground) by drifting off course or because of a mechanical failure, the microwave emitter would shut down.

Second of all - the microwave beam would not be wide enough to cause mass destruction anyway. The waves would be directed so that it bathes a small target on the ground (less than 10 feet in diameter). So even if the guidance cutoff failed and the satellite were to hit a city with microwaves, the damage would be fairly localized (imagine a disaster the scale of a 747 crashing into a neighborhood - not a nuclear or biological weapon event).

All in all I think this will be an interesting project. Best of luck to them.

--
All men are great
before declaring war

Who down with GOP? (1)

Kibo (256105) | more than 13 years ago | (#211920)

Sure. I'll grant you many republicans have a 'gun' fetish. We all have our short commings we need to compensate for, live and let live I say. And besides with all these school shootings, we may find that there's truth in the adage that a well armed society is a polite society. But I suspect nothing grabs the attention of republicans like a free lunch (for democrats its $5 erotic massage) but that's for another topic. Anyway, if you sell it as a big government spending program which will contract out all the development to the largest campaign contributers (reguardless of acctually ability or feasability), and, after the infrastructure for this spiffy new energy source is in place, to sell off large blocks of it at a discount to major energy concerns. Why do the right thing when you can have the taxpayers foot the bill for your friends?

Oddly, I don't believe there is a "real" energy crisis (certainly not with petrolium). And if there is, how on earth will shipping oil from a wildlife refuge in the extream reaches of Alaska predominantly to Japan solve our shortages? Maybe I'm not sofistikated enough to understand our President's foreward thinking energy policy, or maybe I was just dazzled by the pretty pictures.

On a totally unrelated note, would you pay a buck to reduce your risk of cancer 1%. President Bush, and Christine Todd Whitman think you may not be worth it. So they'll study arsenic concentrations and its effects at its 1942 level while the rest of the reasonable world moves to a standard 5 times more stringent. more here [sciam.com]

But really. Who did people think they were voting for? I know people who voted for Bush, and worse yet I know people who couldn't be convinced to vote at all.

only if they pay up (1)

Big Brass Balls (257794) | more than 13 years ago | (#211921)

In A.D. 2001
Dubya was beginning

Davis: What happen?
SoCal Edison: Somebody set up us the blackout.

PG&E: We get banruptcy.
Davis: What !

PG&E: Electricity turn off.
Davis: It's you !!

BC Hydro: How are you gentlemen !!
BC Hydro: All your power are belong to us.
BC Hydro: You are on the way to Stone Age.

Davis: What you say !!
BC Hydro: You have no chance to Chapter 11 make your payment.

PG&E: Governor !!

Davis: Take off every 'regulation' !!

Davis: You know what you doing.

Davis: Move 'regulation'.

Davis: For great darkness [pge.com] .

--
Do I play Hockey? [nhl.com]
Posting at -1 since April 18/01.

dark matter (1)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 13 years ago | (#211924)

what is all the dark stuff in space, eh? we are not alone.

Re:Frying cities.. (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#211927)

First of all, any system beaming energy from orbit would use a laser based targetting system.

So on that subject, can microwaves handle cloud-cover? This would seem to be one of the biggest problems with the scheme. Unless you put the receiver in a desert.

the damage would be fairly localized (imagine a disaster the scale of a 747 crashing into a neighborhood

Except that when a 747 crashes, it doesn't keep going. The damage here would be more like a small, but very destructive tornado-- cutting power lines, destroying roads, starting forest fires.

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#211928)

Don't forget biomass power solutions, which are essentially another way of harnessing solar power (of course, you could argue that oil is as well, but it tends to be non-renewable :)

Re:damn and i voted Gore (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#211929)

The power problems in California didn't suddenly begin in January when Bush took office - they've been brewing for years.

Yes, they've been brewing since the 80s, when some silly people of Bush's political persuasion carelessly deregulated a monopoly and everything slowly went to shit. And as Bush has made clear, the problems in CA are not a Federal issue, they are explicitly a state problem. And as very little electricity is derived from Oil, an aggressive oil policy isn't going to help anyone.

Hmm, don't hear Gore speaking up too much about that energy crisis, do you?

Well, I hate to point this out... But Gore is not the President of the United States, he's a private citizen. He "lost" the election, and the only upshot of that for him is that he doesn't have to be compared to Bush anymore. Al Gore could die his hair orange and become a Hari Krishna, and it wouldn't make Bush's silly political machinations any more justified.

Re:damn and i voted Gore (2)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#211932)

Exactly, plus Bush and Cheney actually sold their oil stocks for propriety's sake before taking office...

Excuse me, I don't much like political flame-wars on Slashdot. But what you just said is wildly untrue. Dick Cheney still has multi-millions of dollars of options in Halliburton oil, many of which don't vest for several years.

There was a flap about this, and he made some noise about getting rid of them, but then it blew over and he quietly went ahead owning them. So please do some basic research before posting.

As far as the energy crisis... I'm not sure I see any solutions in the Bush plan except drilling the ANWR (a relatively small amount of oil, 10 years out), reducing emissions standards (which simply exacerbates the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon which is responsible for a lot of the power companies' troubles, not wild eyed environmentalists or democrats) and of course, Eminant Domain (which pisses off a lot of Bush's key supporters and is rife with legal difficulty.)

I should elaborate that drilling for oil in the ANWR does not mean that America will have more oil, as oil is sold on a global market. It simply means that a few American companies will make more money than they do now. OPEC will still be able to maintain the price, even if the most optimistic estimates of production are met. Simply raising efficiency standards on new cars would save an amount of oil that easily eclipses what's going to come out of ANWR. Now, if we could realistically find a lot more oil, maybe it'd be a real plan, but it's just silliness as it stands.

Slashed research (5)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#211934)

With all of Bush's rhetoric about an energy crisis, why doesn't NASA latch onto this idea to secure more funding?"

For all of Bush's rhetoric, his budget has already slashed funding for alternative energy research. I think this particular idea would fall under the same axe. I'm not going to draw the obvious conclusion as to what his priorities really are.

Now, if we could bill these solar satellites as some sort of missile-defense...

Re:hmmm... (1)

blkros (304521) | more than 13 years ago | (#211938)

nothing like stating the obvious

Re:Can we even do this yet? --Will anyone care? (1)

blkros (304521) | more than 13 years ago | (#211939)

It would cost a lot less, but you probably can't get the gov't to fund it(not sexy enough), and doing it yourself is out of most people's financial reach. Up here, in Maine, it costs over $18,000 for a basic setup to run a house--that's a years wages for me(before taxes). So what ya gonna do? I personally think that we won't have solar satellites or every roof covered with solar cells, because nobody really gives a shit--I guess that's just the cynic in me, though.

hmm.. (2)

waspleg (316038) | more than 13 years ago | (#211943)

i would be more impressed by a cheaper easier to install set of efficient solar panels

think about how much energy would be saved if every house and business in cali had solar panels on their roofs

would their still be rolling blackouts ?

besides i'd like to see my own power bill drop below car payment level

Of course it's dangerous! (5)

WoefullyFat (324813) | more than 13 years ago | (#211947)

But then again, so are oil, coal, and nuclear power. Everytime there's a new tech advance posted here on Slashdot, 50 people reply to the story pointing out how deadly the new tech is. Imagine the replies to the post about Ford releasing the Model T: "So we're just going to let anyone that has $500 drive around some thousand pound chunk of metal powered by EXPLODING GASOLINE! No thanks, I'm sticking to horses!" All technology is dangerous. If you discount a new idea because it's possible to accidentally kill people with it, well, enjoy your cave.

Re:Forget about this Star Trek solution... (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 13 years ago | (#211948)

You're probably someone who is concerned with saving the environment, as you would rather have solar power than find more petroleum. Yet you want to roll the stuff across acres of the desert or the ocean. Do you know what this would do to the environment?

Like I said, it would take an amount of area similar to current paved roads. That's not a drastic impact on the enviromnent; nobody's claiming that today's pavement is causing Antarctica to melt.

As to finding more petroleum, that's probably not a big deal. We'll run out before doubling the current impact, and we'd need alot of it to make plastic tarp collectors anyway. The real disaster will be if we stupidly manage to burn all the coal that we could potentially scratch out of the ground. That's orders of magnitude more CO2. Have you checked the weather on Venus lately?

Forget about this Star Trek solution... (5)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 13 years ago | (#211949)

Why spend billions on an expensive, fragile space-based solution? The billions would be better spent on a crash program to develop solar cells embedded in cheap plastic tarp. Use some ideas similar to those being developed for plastic display technology.

It wouldn't have to be especially efficient, just cheap. Unroll acres of the stuff directly onto the desert floor, or float it on the ocean. Maybe put it in the diamond-shape gaps between those circular irrigated crop fields out west.

My math estimates a few thousand square miles of 5% efficient (at 1% overall system efficiency) collectors would satisfy all our energy needs. (If you think that's too much area, imagine explaining how much area would be paved over in 2001 to a guy from the 19th century. It can be done.)

If this was treated like the Manhatten project, I'd bet they could get production started in 7 years or so. By contrast, in 7 years, NASA would still only be doing feasiblity studies on a space-based solution.

Re:Frying cities.. (1)

neutron2000 (409922) | more than 13 years ago | (#211950)

There is no possibility a city will get fried by microwave energy.

Of course there's a possibility, don't be ridiculous.

The simple fact is that our energy problems are solvable far, far closer to the ground, and for far less money.

Dave

If this goes wrong ... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 13 years ago | (#211954)

It won't be the reactor that's melting down ... ;-)

Well I guess that everyone is finally going to see what your mother-in-law does when she is being microwaved after all.

Re:the problem with solar satellites (1)

Snootch (453246) | more than 13 years ago | (#211966)

...the beam diffuses out over several square kilometers by the time it hits the ground

So...in other words, to collect the u-wave radiation, you'd need - guess what - several square kilometers of ground space! What was that problem with collecting enough solar energy again...?

43rd Law of Computing:

Re:Ehh.. Am I the only one who remembers SimCity2k (1)

Snootch (453246) | more than 13 years ago | (#211967)

Isn't the large receiver area the same problem as with ordinary ground-based solar panels? (see here [slashdot.org] )

43rd Law of Computing:
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