[FoRK] Are you Malthusiastic? Re: Concrete results

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Jun 19 00:50:12 PDT 2013

On 6/18/13 11:33 PM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 03:43:35PM -0400, Aaron Burt wrote:
>> Well... my engineer buddy is building his third solar-thermal plant at the
>> moment.  It takes time, and at the moment I suspect that he and his flock
>> of physicist-engineer-coders are the only ones in North America who know
>> how to build them right.  Not that it matters, there aren't that many
>> suitable sites for concentrated solar.  You need blue sky all year round to
>> make that work.
> Precisely. It's more of a desert thing.
>> Meantime, my brother-in-law manages drivers for one of the main wind-turbine
>> trucking companies.  Those drivers are elite but few, because the volume of
>> work fluctuates so much.
> Right now wind deployment in Germany has stalled because it's all
> off-shore porkbarrel, and they can't build there because there's
> no infrastructure. In general renewable investment in 2012 have
> not matched prior year's growth.
>> I seem to recall that orbital-to-ground microwave power transmission needs
>> so much land that your watts per square meter is down within an order of
>> magnitude of PV.  I hope I'm wrong.
> That's not the real reason why SPS from terrestrial materials is
> a wash at best: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/03/space-based-solar-power/
> Before you have SPS you will have exhausted terrestrial solar
> potential.

Probably a good idea.  In any case, that analysis only considered PV panels in space with LEO or GEOSync orbits, transmitting 
with safe beams all the way to the ground.  That leaves many permutations not considered.  High elliptical or Lagrange point 
orbits are interesting possibilities.  Multiple satellites to provide continuous coverage.  Using solar wind and ion engines to 
actively position extremely lightweight reflectors.  Concentrating power manifold over sunlight, beaming to high-altitude 
platforms, such as lighter than air factories / transports / cities / energy packagers / relays for instance, as I previously 
suggested here.

Solve concentrated energy storage or concentrated beamed transmission and this is probably feasible.  Even relatively simplistic 
solutions, like simply heating something dense and bulky to lava-levels and then gliding it down to an energy plant would 
probably work.  The station wagon speeding down the highway with tapes transfer model.  How many tons at 3000-5000F does it take 
to run a good sized power plant for a significant period of time?

To be clear, when I said "heliostats", I was referring to space solar heliostat concentration and relay more than ground base. 
There's no reason for the latter to take 20 years to deploy.

Is this a no-ideas-after-30 pity party or something?

>>> Anyway, hopefully you are wrong, but we should act like you are close
>>> enough to right and start doing something.
>> Thaaat's the spirit!
>> It pleases me that most folks appear to be at the point of discussing what
>> to do and how much money to spend, rather than arguing over whether there's
>> a problem and/or standing in the room shouting, "what elephant?"
> Most population is very unlike FoRK. The Nile is a comfortable river to stand in.

We're trying to earn the Musky money to do Elonesque public works. The solution to mankind's biggest problems are (probably) in 
stealth mode.


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