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    • CommentAuthorbarryhall
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6712.1)
    Mitsubishi Electric and IHI will join a ¥2 trillion Japanese project that plans to build a giant solar-power generator in space within three decades and beam electricity to Earth.
    A research group representing 16 companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will spend four years developing the technology to send electricity without cables in the form of microwaves, according to a statementTuesday fromthe Japanese Trade Ministry. ''It sounds like a science-fiction cartoon, but solar power generation in space may be a significant alternative energy in the century ahead as fossil fuel disappears,'' said Kensuke Kanekiyo, managing director of the Institute of Energy Economics, a government research body.
    Japan is developing the technology for the 1-gigawatt solar station, fitted with 4 square kilometers, or 1.5 square miles, of solar panels, and hopes to have it running in three decades, according to a Trade Ministry document. It will generate power from the sun regardless of weather conditions, unlike earth-based solar generators, according to the document.
    One gigawatt is enough to supply about 294,000 average homes in Tokyo.
    Takashi Imai, a spokesman for the Institute of Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer, which represents the 16 companies, confirmed the selection when reached by telephone in Tokyo.
    Transporting panels to the solar station 36,000 kilometers, or 22,400 miles, above the planet's surface will be prohibitively costly, so Japan has to figure out a way to reduce expenses to make the solar station commercially viable, said Hiroshi Yoshida, chief executive officer of Excalibur KK, a space and defensepolicy consulting company in Tokyo. ''These expenses need to be lowered to a hundredth of current estimates,'' Mr. Yoshida said.
    The project to generate electricity in space and transmit it to the planet may cost at least $21 billion, said Koji Umehara, deputy director of space development and utilization at the Science Ministry. ''Humankind will some day need this technology, but it will take a long time before we use it,'' Mr. Yoshida said.
    The Trade Ministry and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which are leading the project, plan to launch a small satellite fitted with solar panels in 2015, and test beaming electricity from space.

    IHT 02/09
    • CommentAuthorDC
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6712.2)
    I see 2 major problems: meteors and other debris damaging this huge structure and the energy loss from transmitting the energy to earth's surface. File under "utopian projects".
  1.  (6712.3)
    I see 2 major problems: meteors and other debris damaging this huge structure and the energy loss from transmitting the energy to earth's surface.

    The energy loss is a bullshit argument.

    Here's a number to consider, when you're talking about costs:

    in the EU alone, there are 3.7 billion electronic products that by being left in stand-by mode consume close to 50 Twh, with an annual energy cost of 7 billion euros


    When you decide to play silly buggers by assuming the cost of the project is amortized against the potential energy gross instead of, fucking obviously, the post-transfer energy net, all you're really doing is obfuscating the issue while persuading the hard-of-thinking that Energy From Space That Will Pay For Itself In Under A Decade is bad.

    That said, earthbound solar would do the job better, according to a map I recently saw.
  2.  (6712.4)
    I find it quite worrisome that human nature seems to tend toward the derision of radical development, almost automatically and often either directly, or by way of subterfuge, its to do with money, when Mitsubishi started rabbiting on about pouring money into Hydrogen fuel cell tech, And no, they weren't the first, Automotive companies, especially those affiliated with petrochemical companies immediately started squealing it wouldn't work, and suddenly started declaring how hybrid electric was the way forward.Sure, Both are steps in the right direction, but do we have to knock the one out of the running? Hydrogen fuel cells may not be the way to go just yet, but it definately has a future. People need to look up, and stop worrying someone has tied their shoelaces together.

    Imagine that the cost of these orbiting arrays can be brought down, and think of potential benefits, It may be that even if this technology isn't so outright successful in itself, it may lead to further, more productive alternatives, and alternatively, Mr. Ellis could buy it and use it as a deathray device.
  3.  (6712.5)
    and alternatively, Mr. Ellis could buy it and use it as a deathray device.


    This is correct thinking.
  4.  (6712.6)
    That said, earthbound solar would do the job better, according to a map I recently saw.


    But how do you get around the weather conditions and day/night cycles to keep a steady flow of power?
  5.  (6712.7)
    1) It's a round world.

    2) If solar panels work in Scandinavia, they'll work in any weather.

    3) Among many different solutions, MIT recently unveiled cheap solar-electricity storage.

    4) Far, far more solar hits the world every day than we could possibly use in a year.
  6.  (6712.8)
    Thanks, that's very good to know, especially point number three, which I was unaware of and is absolutely vital. I had mentioned day and night cycles because -- being quite obviously shit at this subject -- I understand next to nothing of solar power politics and how nations cooperate on this matter (and how costly that is), so this might be my cue to do more extensive research.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009 edited
     (6712.9)
    I could be wrong, but this is probably the map Warren's talking about.

    Also, we were talking about this last year, only it was India instead of Japan. Many of the same arguments could probably be applied here.
  7.  (6712.10)
    Question to the one's with the scary IQ's. If by some Miracle, the people who run our countries had decided to focus on Solar Power as viable alternative power source, and decided to fund covering Nevada, Arizona with solar panels as that above map implies. How much would it cost and how long would it take? Plus, how would this power be distributed?
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009
     (6712.11)
    I can't answer the cost or time questions, but I would assume distribution would be along similar lines as we have now. I would also have to assume that other plants/farms would be necessary to make up for some transmission loss from say, Arizona to New York. I'm not sure how the physics of it break down, but there has to be SOME loss involved in a run like that.

    And for the cost question, the answer varies pretty wildly. I've seen a few different figures for manufacturing costs in my cursory searching, but no real talk of how much a real, industrial installation would be. Sorry I'm so vague, but I haven't checked it out too in-depth.
  8.  (6712.12)
    "3) Among many different solutions, MIT recently unveiled cheap solar-electricity storage."

    I didn't see that particular news but there is a LOT of research going into grid-scale energy storage.

    Whoever cracks it first will probably make billions.
  9.  (6712.13)
    Question to the one's with the scary IQ's. If by some Miracle, the people who run our countries had decided to focus on Solar Power as viable alternative power source, and decided to fund covering Nevada, Arizona with solar panels as that above map implies. How much would it cost and how long would it take? Plus, how would this power be distributed?


    Nevada Solar One generates 64 megawatts, cost $266 million and generates 134 million kilwatt hours per year. The site takes up ca, 400 acres/0.6 square miles.

    According to wikipedia: "Power consumption is projected to hit 4,333,631 million kilowatt hours by 2013, an annual growth rate of 1.93% for the next five years."

    Divide total power consumption by the output of Nevada Solar One and you'd need roughly 32,000 plants that size - assuming you want to replace all existing power plants including nuclear and hydro as well as coal. Just to get rid of coal you'd need around 16,000 plants.

    Assuming no decrease in costs, 32 NS1 style plants would cost $8.3 trillion. Replacing coal would cost $4.3 trillion.

    The sheer size of the job would mean it'd take decades so you'd spread it out over 20 or 30 years - and over that period the US would invest trillions in replacing old power plants in any case.

    In practice you'd expect the cost to come down dramatically just through sheer economies of scale.

    The plants would take up a bit over 50,000 square kilometres. That's roughly half the size of Nevada - but no-one's suggesting making a single mass of solar plants that size in one area.

    This is all based on an actual real state-of-the-art solar power plant. New technology could reduce those figures quite a bit. NS1 is a solar thermal plant which uses the heat from the sun to turn a liquid into steam which it then runs through a turbine. These plants are about 10-15% efficient. The current record for solar cell efficiency is over 40%.

    The technology for efficient long distance transmission has been around for about a decade. It's called High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) and has far lower transmission losses than previous technology. There are already thousands of kilometres of HVDC lines operating around the planet.

    Obama has plans for a US HVDC grid - not sure if that was in the stimulus bill or if it's going to be in the climate change bill.
  10.  (6712.14)
    It's always been easy to look at the vast wasteland of the southwest and think it's ludicrous not to have solar plants, but I believe half the solution is simply implementing solar power at it's source; your house. You can shingle the roof with your house with solar now if you or your HOA don't like the arrays. What happens if everyone on your block is solar and on their own grid? I think it would be a beautiful thing.

    And probably the most important and beneficial thing about solar that hardly ever gets mentioned- No moving parts.

    Batteries will always be part of the equation. Apart from the obvious storage they provide they also act as buffers, evening out voltage and amperage. Modern deep cycles last a good long time and are something 95% recyclable now.
    •  
      CommentAuthorFinagle
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009
     (6712.15)
    Panel technology is ultimately a loser - it is too fragile, expensive, hard to maintain, and generally a pain in the ass. Real photovoltaic paint, or at least microscale "shingle" cells that can be placed on ordinary materials, need to be present and cost-effective in order for the tech to become truly ubiquitous. Once solar is just plain built into your car paint or your house's siding, then we'll see a viable technology for mass commodity use. Until then, it will be relegated to a fringe technology, maybe used for some large-scale projects that provide local power to a regional area, but not something that can be truly just built in anywhere.

    Power from space is going to be in the same category - only suitable for large-scale deployments - but the massive payoff in this case is worth it, as the specific local power feed generated could be massive enough to justify a specific project. Folks in the Southwest aren't going to be wildly enthused about building a grid to power Los Angeles, but a power receiver for space-based panels would take up a lot less area and be less dependent on multiple local authorities to deploy.
    • CommentAuthorPhranky
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009
     (6712.16)
    Interesting discussion.

    I remember reading about a company called Nanosolar who have begun to mass produce an extremely cost-efficient [printable] solar panel technology. Give it time and the efficiency of this technology will improve dramatically which should make those solar panel farms in Gattaca (yes, the movie) a realistic endeavour.

    With all this incredible technology around the corner we are living in exciting times... as long as backwards knuckle draggers don't fuck it up.
  11.  (6712.17)
    @ Stygmata

    I can't agree. I know too many people with solar panels that are decades old on their house. I wouldn't deem them any more fragile than dams, nuclear plants, steam plants or the crazy synchronicity of the generators in the current power grid. My dad was a boilermaker. You should hear the maintenance required for steam plants alone...
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009
     (6712.18)
    There's room for everything in the energy mix. No one true way. The big challenge is some kind of storage technology to level the load hour by hour and day and night.

    If I were elected national benevolent dictator, every house or apartment block would have a solar backup system installed.

    Not enough to run the joint, but enough to keep a secondary power system juiced up for three or four days. Hall lighting, refrigerators, and necessary infrastructure stuff like water pumps. Maybe enough extra watts for a cell phone charger.

    Purpose: Disaster management. A house or apartment with power for lights and water and a refrigerator is much more habitable than one without.
  12.  (6712.19)
    But how do you get around the weather conditions and day/night cycles to keep a steady flow of power?

    There’s no reason that earthbound solar need be used exclusively. Throw in round-the-clock wind farms, generator floor panels and sidewalks, whatever other gimmicks come along, and then back it all up with fuel-recycling nuke plants and things aren’t so bad. It sounds expensive, but not when you compare it to the money we spend dealing with the problems caused by buying oil from the assholes of the world. And things will improve much faster once the leaders of China and India realize that their economies cannot grow fast enough to pay for oil if rising demand and prices slow consumer spending in wealthy nations.
  13.  (6712.20)
    @James Puckett

    Hell to the yeah! piezoelectric floor tiles!