[ExI] How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Sep 10 06:58:34 UTC 2013

On Mon, Sep 09, 2013 at 06:41:57PM -0700, Keith Henson wrote:
> From: "spike" <spike66 at att.net>
> > But one thing I would like everyone to realize is that there is likely to be
> no magic new technology, nothing likely to replace oil.
> Of all the people on this list, I expected you to know better.
> From a paper I am about to put up on The Energy Collective:
> Economic Analysis of GEO Laser Propulsion
> It is not hard to get the cost for 5kg/kW power satellites down in

Photovoltaics and wireless energy transmission go back almost
two centuries. Satellite technology half a century. Laser propulsion,
well, we don't have working laser propulsion. The bootstrap to 
scale will take money and time. We don't have money and time.

Notice that terrestrial photovoltaics is already cost-effective.
Further trend due to scaling alone is reliable, and indicates
a very bright future.

But the deployed global volume is falling a factor of 100 short.
Let's assume that 3 GUSD gives you 1 GW effective.
The spending on wars to secure oil supply alone gives you
a TW effective. So the money is there, or would have been.

It's a question of priorities. Incidentally, it is a lot cheaper
to put up solar panels on my roof, for for the municipality
to tile up a field with panels. And there's enough space to
put up a flock of sheep there, or just leave it as a meadow.

So given a chance to blow a few TUSD on bootstrap of something
that is uncertain, you can just let individuals and small
groups spend fine-grained (as small as a couple 100 USD)
funds, with ability to add to an existing system incrementally.

Which of these two realities has a better chance of happening?

Don't get me wrong SPS are just great, but we need to make
sure we get a chance of building them, somewhere after 2050
or 2080, given that we make it there with no more than a limp.

> this range if the cost of lifting parts to GEO can be brought down to
> $100/kg or less.  Solar power on earth ties up material in the range
> of 500 kg/kW(average). Power plants built in space, where they get
> full time sunlight and are not subject to wind and gravity, allows a
> hundred to one materials reduction to 5 kg/kW and an energy payback
> time of less than two months.  Given a 20-year lifetime for the power
> satellites, the EROEI would be around 120, good as the best days of
> oil. However, the cost of transporting even a greatly reduced mass to
> space is a big problem. One hundred dollars per kg is a hundred to one
> cost reduction compared to the current cost of around $10,000 per kg
> paid to put communication satellites in GEO.
> A two-orders-of-magnitude reduction in transport cost seems to be
> possible, but not using chemical energy (other than the first step
> where a Skylon type vehicle burns hydrogen with air for about 1/4 of
> the velocity to orbit).
> Beyond Skylon's air-breathing phase (above 25 km and Mach 5.5), it
> takes a 3 GW laser located in GEO to accelerate the vehicle for the
> last 6 km/s to orbit.
> I think you reviewed the long version for the JBIS.
> Keith
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Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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