[ExI] power satellites

Kevin H kevin.l.holmes at gmail.com
Wed Dec 17 16:20:43 UTC 2008

Tom, I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation.  Keith is
talking about the peak oil and consequent energy crisis that the world is
about to enter into.  I share your skepticism about the political
feasability of a number of megaprojects, but just like the current economic
crisis has compelled the government to take actions that just six months ago
were totally unfeasable; I believe things are quickly going to come to a
head and whereby now such programs like what Keith and others are proposing
seem radical, very shortly they're not going to seem radical *enough*.

Check out this document:

It has some interesting data.


On Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 5:09 AM, Tom Nowell <nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

> Keith wrote:
> "If that's the way you feel about it--without doing the hard work of
> looking at a design to cost engineering effort--that's ok.  In which
> case, what do *you* propose to supply the cubic-mile-of-oil per year
> energy the human population needs to avoid famines and resource wars?
> The next best seems to be some 10 to 20 thousand nuclear reactors."
> Well, I'd reckon the most feasible solution is the combination of a couple
> of dozen small partial solutions. The problem with the powersat solution is
> that it requires one big, solid financial commitment that must be reliably
> maintained until it is seen through to completion. To avoid Space
> Shuttle/International Waste of Space Station/ anything the USAF has
> commissioned in the past few decades/ anything the UK military has
> commissioned since 1980 problems, you need to avoid having design changes
> and major shifts of focus half way through.
> Few bodies can afford the $350 billion price tag by themselves. Even if the
> US govt did back it, there would be a moderate chance of the next set of
> guys voted in either messing around with it or cancelling it. Big
> international projects like ITER and some ESA projects have shown that
> multinational projects can succeed, but it takes quite a few years of
> negotiation for everyone to agree on the share they're paying for, and where
> the major construction work is done.
> So, without the single mega-project how do we get enough energy? Well,
> there are a lot of small partial solutions, many of which can be innovated
> by a single country, and when it is shown to succeed others can copy.
> Nuclear fission may work - the pebble-bed designs of South Africa may offer
> a way to burn the world's plutonium stockpile while producing small-scale
> needs, and didn't someone mention on this list a Japanese company's design
> for a reactor suitable for a community as small as 2000 people?
> Market interference by governments could help - eg a requirement for
> utilities to buy a certain percentage of their energy from certain sources,
> this has worked for German solar power. Politicians would love this because
> it's not a direct tax that people would notice, it would just gently shove
> up people's utility bills (which get increased every year by the power
> companies anyway, regardless of general inflation rates) in a way the voters
> may just shrug their shoulders about. It provides an incentive to improve
> power generation technology through private sector investment.
> Increasing the energy efficiency of infrastructure can help, and given the
> current rhetoric for spending our way out of recession by investing in
> infrastructure I can see this being sold politically - investing in US
> railways to ship US agricultural produce to world markets while using less
> oil will help keep the world fed while spending money now on employing
> workers.
> Governments making a token gesture to public appeals to raise foreign aid
> could use their extra funding to invest in agricultural improvements in poor
> countries which minimise fossil fuel use.
> I could keep going on, and mention funding OTEC for Hawaii and then
> exporting it around the globe, new transport alternatives, all the different
> solar/hydro/geothermal schemes, all the biotech schemes, and the rest, but
> there are lot of things that can ameliorate the problem. None of them will
> solve the problem single-handedly. Most won't even solve the problem even in
> combination with one other technology. However, given the combination of
> technologies and social policies and wise investment, there are many routes
> to success.
> Don't get me wrong, I'd love for solar powersats to be a reality - I have a
> great love for schemes involving space, and deeply desire truly low-cost
> launches to orbit. The power satellite industry would form a colossal market
> that would force the price of space access down dramatically, and in doing
> so revolutionise our civilisation. I just wish there was a way of selling
> this that didn't seem too far beyond what projects we see today.
> Tom
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