Making a dent in the climate crisis is going to take more than solar panels and recycled toilet paper. Scientists are finding ever more creative ways (pig pee! DIY tornadoes! mini nuclear reactors!) to clean up the Earth
Beaming Electricity from Space
The Vision Launch giant solar panels into orbit and send limitless clean energy back to Earth
The Plan By 2030, Japan hopes to pull its power from the heavens instead of from polluting coal plants. The idea is to send satellites into geostationary orbit above the equator, where they will unfurl 1.5-mile-long solar arrays and soak up the sun 24 hours a day. Transmitters mounted on the satellites would convert the solar energy into microwave energy and beam it down to terrestrial receiving stations. Equipped with massive antennas measuring two miles across, each station would produce one gigawatt of electricity—enough to power 500,000 homes. That's twice as much as a typical coal-fired plant, and without any of the greenhouse emissions.
Putting solar panels in space has one obvious advantage: It's never cloudy 22,000 miles up. On average, there's 8 to 10 times as much sunlight available in space as there is on Earth, where atmosphere and weather get in the way. Now, with satellite launch costs dropping (about five thousand dollars per pound today, versus $12,000 per pound a decade ago) and energy bills rising (already double what they were in 2005), researchers are finally warming to the idea.
Later this year, in fact, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to test the idea on the ground, blasting a microwave beam some 170 feet to a 6.5-foot-wide rectenna, a type of receiver that converts microwaves into DC electricity. Not as glamorous as beaming rays from space, but it's a vital first step.
Potential Uh-Ohs One frightful but improbable scenario is that the microwave beam misses the receiving antenna and fries something on Earth's surface. Like a village. To mitigate that risk, JAXA scientists are developing an automated detection system that turns off the microwave beam if the satellite drifts out of line.
ETA JAXA aims to launch its first energy-beaming satellite into orbit by 2013, with a network of powersats that feed energy directly into the grid to follow by 2030.
—Rena Marie Pacella
One step forward to Free Energy...
- and how bout sending one to Mars instead of using giant mirrors?
1 They have been talking about those solar power stations in orbit fro over a quarter century the reason we dont have them is it is always been to expensive to build until recently
2 sending it to mars would both add to the cost and complicate the transmissions of the microwave beams
Technically, an energy beaming satellite could be classified as a space based weapon and redeployed to do something other than provide energy to a countries power grid. I imagine that other countries would not be too keen on the idea of a country having this device floating around in space.
Clever idea but I think that instead of sending solar panels into outer space we should make huge floating solar panel blankets and float them on the surface of the ocean. This does double-duty because the solar panels will create a large amount of electricity and since the ocean absorbs most of the light that hits it (thus contributing to global warming), the solar panels reduce the amount of heat that is absorbed.
This tornado generator will be worse than wind turbines. They are only tens of meters tall, generate much noise and people say they are looking ugly. What would they tell about miles-high 24/7 tornado?
hmm, although that whole microwave weapon in space could be a problem, im sure there is also an added benefit: perhapse a single satelite could beam it to multiple stations. putting energy into the grid where its needed could save at least 10%
Floating solar panels on the ocean would block sunlight from the ocean ecosystem and have a catastrophic effect there.
Space Solar Panels would be a great addition, and as long as we have a way to track and destroy it if it becomes a threat, we should give it the benefit of the doubt.
i agree with Phi523 puting solar panels over the ocean are a bad idea no only would it effect the eco-ostem but the ocean is also a CO2 dump and putting solar panels over it would effect its ability to absorb it. also what would happen when a storm hit the panels??? space is ideal because it is a very stable environment comapred to the earths surface... good idea but the cons would outweight the pro's.
Anyone who seriously believes Earth could be destroyed by humans has a lot to learn. Humans may make things unpleasant for humans and other species of plants and animals, but that is a long way from "destroying" the planet.
An ice age will do more to destroy all the critters, including humans, that we try to protect from evolutionary changes. Species dying out is a normal evolutionary process.
Humans have far too much hubris.
Better we tried to educate humans in the earth science fields (geology, meteorology, climatology, etc.) so they actually understood what is really going on around them and how tenuous life is (think: astroid impact, solar eruptions, etc.) from things humans have absolutely no control over.
Then there is the emotional notion that humans have the capacity to make significant changes to any aspect of earth and its creatures (both plant and animal). The operative word is "significant" (for those whose language skills are as challenged as their scientific skills).
Too much emotion. Too little reason.
When I drew a solar electric satellite system back in 1967 I thought of using a relay of satellites from Mercury's orbit to earth orbit to produce even more electricity to be transmitted to earth.
The most audacious idea that I have been talking about on my cable TV program for the last few years is the Sahara Reservoir. It would be excavated down to around 200 meters below sea level by giant plasma excavation equipment and would take over a decade to complete. Once completed, it would be the largest body of fresh water in the world that would cover an area larger than Texas. Water from the Mediterranean and Atlantic would go through deslinization systems and hydroelectric systems before being dumped into the reservoir.
The world sea levels would be lowered by over 2 meters and the average global temperature would be lowered a few degrees. Minerals and electricity would bring in revenues as well as fish from the fishing fleet that will be established maybe a decade after completion. The displaced people would live inside the retaining wall sections and could travel via subway from the Atlantic Coast to Egypt. It would definitely change the world.
A way to merge mass transit with private transportation would be with the interstate moving highway system. It would go from New Jersey to California and would consist of at least four lanes of moving platforms that you would drive your vehicle upon and have areodynamic nose and tail pieces placed on your vehicle. The outer lane might be for traveling at 150 mph while the inner lane would be for traveling 300 mph. The platforms would receive power from a third rail system and would be levitated to cut down on friction. Even semis could use the system.
Let's say I wanted to travel to California. I would drive down the Palisades to where the system starts, program in my destination, and pay the access fee at the control center. I might have dinner in my home in Peekskill, New York and take a platform out to California that night. If I needed to stop along the way, the control unit I would have could signal the platform to pull into a service area. I might arrive in California by time for breakfast. Since the only energy I would use would be electricity, I might only have to pay $300. That would be less than if I had to pay for gas, lodging, and meals for three days of travel which would be cut to less than 12 hours. I could also sleep most of the way to the Coast and maybe watch a DVD movie along the way or listen to satellite radio.
The moving highway is one of my seven possible future wonders of the world along with the Sahara Reservoir, the Saudi Arabian Solar Stack Assembly, the Frank Lloyd Wright Stratotower in Chicago that would be around 30 miles tall, the Siberian/Alaskan Bridge, the Intercontinental Tube Transportation System, and the World Cruiser which would be a multi-hulled ocean liner that is around 15 miles long by 5 miles wide. On my cable TV program I will expand the list to 20 possible future wonders of the world which will include things that are within geostationary orbit like Geosynch One that will be the home for over a million people and the International Energy Generation and Transmission Station that will beam down enough electricity for entire countries.
Have to agree - the whole "man made climate change" thing made a great political football, but the science always looked dodgy. Now that the results of all the studies are starting to come in we really need something else more, well...., "scientific" to talk about in a science forum. Alternative energy sources are always fun though. Good applied science ideas, and possible ways to save money are always welcome. The new super cheap and efficient nanotech solar cells they did an article on several months ago were probably the most interesting idea of recent times, as they are actually building a factory for those in California. I would expect that once everybody has "solar shingles" on their roof the need for most of the more exotic ideas will go away.
<a href="http://www.eredux.com/states/">Check out these US Carbon Footprint stats</a>, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint table, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level...
Hey... what do you think happens to all of the power that we put into all of the electrical stuff that we use? Whether it is light, transportation, or heating blankets, it all ends up as heat. So, what is all of that free power from space going to do? Global warming just got a friend.
I have the same issue with nuclear solutions. I think they could be a good bridging technology, but they will still add a huge heat footprint to our little planet, heat that would not normally be released.
The blankets on the ocean is an interesting idea, as is the tornado, but the planet already has great ways of capturing CO2 out of the air - plants! I think the best way to go is grass, hemp, corn stalks etc (not food crops!) converted into bio-fuel - that is the way of the future. The heat that goes into the environment is no more than would be returned by the natural decay of the biomass.
Today's bio-fuel processes are not so good, as discussed in other articles, but it still just seems right. The fossil fuel we burn now started as biomass way back then.
My research group and i began looking at this topic after the whole MIT witricity business. Its an excellent proposition but we soon found articles of the effects of various microwave freq. on the body. Turns out most MWF can cause blindness. A study done on rhesus monkeys and exposing them to various MW frequencies cause almost all of them to go completely blind. Turns out there is a lot of water in your eyes and microwaves excites water molecules and heats them. Essentially there eyes were boiled from the inside out.
Actually, I am Impressed…
Possible solutions, instead of a bunch of sky’s falling AGW propaganda
Beaming power from outer space seems like the most promising as a large scale solution to power woes. That is as long as the “oooops we just wiped out half your Capital cuz of a software glitch” thing can be taken care of….
A whole new meaning to the “Blue screen of death” ay Bill.
he Hairy Plants, the Carbon Bags in the sea need to have the “Law of Un-intended Consequences” Warning stickers all over them. I hear the Hair club for men is looking to sponsor one of these.
One would think that there would be additional use for the PDX Wort Heater….. Hmmmm think think think…something like the PDX super fast turkey maker…….hey Ron Popeil, have I got an idea for you…
The Body warmth heating the Stockholm’s Central Station….works and is by no means a new concept…..lookup the ten year old Mall of America in Minnesota………there is no main heating system…..Body warmth/solar/ground mass and a lotta Liberal hot air.
Not having a Furnace in Minn, now that’s something to brag about (un like Prince, Ventura, and Mondale).
The Twister concept seems the coolest, sure hope it works. Might even be able to size it correctly and combine it with a new ride at Universal studios………admit it, you too are thinking “How cool would that be” …..
The Sewage Buses,, another use of something we have way too much off….sure hope they work and don’t leak
Pig Pee Plastic…………….might be a tough sell at first……just going to take a while to get used to drinking from a pig pee cup…. Hope it woks out though
I can hardly wait for the day I’m sitting on a Sewage bus sipping recycled waist water from my Pig Pee Plastic Water bottle…..Those will be “The days”
Lil Nukes, I love it, This coming from the first generation to grow up with Lil Tikes……………..See if we just look around the answers are all around us…….. Just need somebody to figure out how to connect the dots….
Just as long as we don't make things worse by trying to "Fix Things".................ala Ethanol and poisonous light bulbs
Everyone is thinking of ways to create power or bring it in from outer space. All energy will eventually dissipate as heat, thus furthering global warming. If we can get rid of the excess CO2, then think of ways to convert energy already on Earth to energy we can use, then we will have nothing to worry about. The solar panels in space will only further global warming, while solar panels on Earth will take some of the energy coming to Earth anyway and direct it to our power needs before ending up as heat. It just takes a couple more steps. Nuclear power is also not the answer. That will also just create excess heat normally locked in mass. If we grew an amount of hairy plants with reflective power equal to the energy created by nukes or solar panels in space, then we cancel the energy gained, and maintain thermal equilibrium on Earth.
Solar and wind power seem the most viable to me. #1 because they are already being used on a small scale, and #2 they can be scaled up in use with no emissions and small environmental impact. Solar panels could be placed on existing rooftops everywhere occupying no additional space.
Impellers driven by ocean currents seems plausible to me as well.
Satelites? No... Space has weather too! Blackout!
Gen Moded Plants? No... There are enough skeletons in the closet with gen moded plants already.
Nuclear powered Gasoline? Come on...
Steamed beer, I can understand that! Yeah!
Body heat recovery, Yes...
Co2 storage, NO!
Bio gas yes... but see above...
Plastics are... well they're plastic!
Nukes with sodium for coolant? "Honey, What's that rumbling???"
People need to get a grip.
Think small, renewable, low impact and sustainable.
If you do want to think big, do cold fusion. Imagine if all the money printed for the war on terror was spent on cold fusion?
So Japan is building a Gigawatt death beam that can take out villages?
You seriously think even with a equally balanced society of intellect that we could engineer a computer to analyze the precise movement of the earth to locate the "receptors" of the harvested energy.
Also to consider the expense of INVESTING into sending a capacitor to mars to release energy onto the polar ice caps to release co2 to Feed plant like to make oxygen to terraform the planet to make it habitable to expand life is even worth thinking about expense, i think all should work forward at the most efficient work ethic to get this done as quickly as possible. ** -
waves lift thousand ton shipes in water like playthings.....ever thought about converting that lifting energy into high pressure air and convey that via high pressure air hoses miles back to any aircompressor station on land to utilize pnuematic energy power like air motors for electricity.......desalinization plants........sewage processing......large building energy needs..........municipal energy needs.........all readily consistently and cheap/clean available to anyone or any city worldwide.
..........what we know in our minds to be possible is not what is possible if we open our minds to the possible!
The space-based microwave ray is really, really cool. It might be the end of all electricity-generating problems if we launch enough of those. And then they double up as national security devices!
For beaming electricity from space, could these things happen?:
-Alter the atmospheric temperatures.
-Push the earth off its orbit (gradually), since there there is an idea to shove threatening asteroids off their course by using the "slight push" of radiation harnessed by gaint dishes attached to the asteroids themselves.
-Accidentally fry satelites who come in the beam's way.
Can I take one with me to the moon?
This is quite a good article, though I do have concerns about anything involving nuclear options and carbon sequestration. What do we do with the nuclear waste? Besides the NIMBY problem, burying it merely defers the problem. (And that's ignoring the potential, however slight, of a nuclear accident.) The same is true with carbon sequestration.
If scientists figure out a way to make nuclear waste and carbon safe, a way economically viable -- sure, I would support them.
The SBSP [Space-Based Solar Power] is really, really interesting and has much to recommend it, especially as costs for solar panels and launches continue to drop. The concern of "Oops! There went the White House!" is, I gather, a valid one. ((Though I read across the sciences avidly, I am not a scientist, so have to bow to those with the training and knowledge to say, and from what I've read, SBSP could indeed lead to an accident.)
Is there any way to mitigate the risk? For instance, could the transmitter satellite be designed in such a way that it sent microwaves is several beams, no single one able to cause damage? And is it possible to build the satellite in such a way that those beams *can't* be combined into one single beam that can present a threat? I simply don't know, and if those are dumb questions, apologies.
Something else I don't know and have wondered about is this: if we built huge solar farms in places such as the Sahara, could we transmit that energy in microwave form, or does the atmosphere interfere too much for that to be done across long distances, such as, say, to Europe?
One step that is getting increasing, but still not enough attention (IMHO) is distinctly unsexy: conservation. I've managed to reduce my utility bills at home by roughly half through *just* conservation, without discomforting myself. I don't know what that equals in terms of reducing my carbon footprint, but I figure every wee bit helps.
Also, surface-based solutions are becoming more affordable, even on small scales. For instance, solar films are dropping prices for solar power. On the other hand, while launch costs have dropped dramatically, I just read a few minutes ago that it still costs about $5,000 per pound to launch something into Earth orbit, and even the lightest SBSP solution would be very expensive to get into place, given that we're talking solar arrays a mile or two long.
Other steps can help that are distinctly low-tech. I live in Bangkok, and it's common here for apartment buildings, office buildings, hotels, shopping centers -- well, just about any high-density structure -- to have simple roof-mounted metal water tanks. (Let's leave aside for now the bad stuff resulting from the production and transport of those tanks.) While it never gets *cold* here, the cool season can sometimes be pretty darned cool, but most people don't even bother, at the residential level, with a hot-water heater, because the sun hitting the metal tank warms the water inside enough you can take a pleasant shower or bath.
Regarding global warming, I'm always startled when I read comments from those who reject it on the basis of "the science." Well, just a couple days ago I read that scientists have re-run climatic data with additional refinements compared to what the U.N. panel used, based on new knowledge regarding, for example, melting in Antarctica and Greenland -- and the results are even worse than the U.N.'s report. In other words, it does seem those rejecting GW are pretty selective in just which "science" they pick and choose; the reports coming out of Heartland are hardly unbiased yet often cited.
But let's say GW is nothing but a big myth. I mentioned I live in Bangkok, and where I live specifically, central Bangkok, the pollution is terrible. The air, the water, and the soil are simply filthy and unhealthy. I'd like to clean up the environment based on just that. And approaches such as "drill, baby, drill" won't get us there.
Anyway, I hope these technolgies come online ASAP, including clean coal and nuclear, if they're possible.
Nice concept, the science is sound as well. The atmosphere is a storehouse of solar energy, in the form of pressure and heat. Providing a catalyst to create a relative low pressure ,with a vortex, will activate the response of the outside high pressure to expand and do work with kinetic and flow pressure energy on the turbines. EF9energysystems is doing a similar thing but in a different configuration and scale and it also needs some energy to create a vacuum. This technology is compact ,portable and can power a car or aircraft.There is a site at the same name to see the technology www,ef9energysystems.com.
I have yet to see a viable SBSP program that addresses the two main problems of 1. economical installation, and 2. path clearance. Nice plan, but if one facility costs more than the 10 year projected GDP of the US, is even nominally affected by solar winds, and can't maintain a clear working orbit (yes, LEO and HEO are really cluttered, and even stationary orbital placement requires protections)then it's just never going to get traction. And let's not forget, whatever our government may say, it will be constructed in such a way that it is a viable weapon. Sure, no more nukes- you wouldn't need them anymore.
I am on board with tornadoes, though I do wish to point out that corporations and power grids benefit no one but the corporations. Instead of building a two mile high vortex, maybe the could put some time into making an affordable ready-to-install homesize version? Be all of, what, 10 ft high, noiseless, cheaper than solar panels?