[ExI] Thoughts on Space based solar power

Olie Lamb neomorphy at gmail.com
Thu Nov 20 23:38:30 UTC 2008

You're absolutely right. Clouds - and water vapour generally - make a
lot of difference for the radiation balance.  The main greenhouse gas
that does anything is water vapour.

But the only advantage of going above clouds, rather than around them
(deserts), is the difference in transmission distances, hence,
transmission costs.

To get above most of the clouds only requires going up 3 km or so.
However, there's plenty of weather up to 16,000 m, which could damage

There are other ideas to keep things aloft for power generation
purposes, such as wind-farm kites- a friend of mine is doing a masters
on why this particular design isn't one of the more serious options
being looked at by industry (reason: because there are just too many
unknown costs)

All very possible stuff.  Just too many new engineering challenges for

On 11/21/08, ben <benboc at lineone.net> wrote:
> Despite the subject, this post is NOT about space-based solar power.
> However...
> It occurred to me while on a flight recently, that the main difference
> between the insolation above the atmosphere and at ground level is
> caused not by the clear air, but by the clouds (anybody care to comment
> on that? Am i wildly wrong, or is this close to the truth?).
> So, if you can get your PVs above most of the clouds, this will be a LOT
> cheaper than getting them into orbit, and you can catch a lot of
> sunlight, almost anywhere in the world.
> I'm thinking of rafts of helium/hydrogen/hot air balloons, with PVs on
> the top surface, or supporting a PV layer, tethered to the ground,
> floating just above the main cloud layer, with lightwight electrical
> cables (maybe with bouyancy balloons attached at intervals) conducting
> the power to the ground.
> No death-ray microwave beams needed, no ITAR problems involved.
> OK, i know that 'the main cloud layer' is a rather nebulous (pun
> intended) concept, but the raft's altitude could be changed to suit
> conditions.  Even it's attitude could be changed, to maximise the
> surface area presented to the prevailing light.
> Am i talking rubbish? Or is this worth thinking about?
> Ben Zaiboc
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