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Solar Space Farms


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#1 Anime-Addict

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 02:48 AM

There is almost unlimited energgy flowing away from earth on its useless journy into interstellar space. However we have something called technology limiting us. There are many other issues to address as well. At this point in the topic we will discuss will fall under -

Potential Problems Intergrating A Space Based Solar Farm - Such as intergrating into the current power grid, launching, budgeting, and security.

Transmission - The power would be generated by "Solar Arrays" Wich convert the solar energy to useable energy, then transmit it to the ground.

Conversion - Convering the solar radiation to either a transmittable form or a useable form.

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#2 ben-sama

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 06:00 AM


a self sufficient space station? it would have to be mainly solar powered (seems simple enough) and enormous. i imagine it'd be like a huge terrarium. you would need food and water, so enough space to grow crops for sure. water is the tough one. the earth provides us natural water filters through the atmosphere (rain) and the ground (springs, wells). fossil fuels are out of the question if it's to be truly independent, since they'll quickly taint the relatively small ecosystem. so, entirely electric, solar powered, large enough to have weather patterns for fresh water. OR an elaborate irrigation system to provide artificial rain and filtration.

other possible problems are radiation and the impact of small debris hurtling through space. it'd have to be enormous to generate 'gravity' through centripetal effect, so i think these problems could be blocked out by the outside of such a large structure.

that's what i see in our very distant future. solar panels in space (to transmit energy to us here on earth) are possible but seem redundant since we can just put panels on the surface.

#3 Bold

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 10:51 AM

QUOTE (Anime-Addict @ Sep 07 2006, 12:41 AM)
Transmission - The power would be generated by "Solar Arrays" Wich convert the solar energy to useable energy, then transmit it to the ground.
If by solar array you mean photo-voltaic cells (comonly referend to as solar panel), you should consider that those panel have a limited life, are not recyclable, non biodegratable and quite expensive. So basicly, using such panels requires a massive investment and generates a lot of garbage.

Other system could be used like mirrors to concentrate solar energies and heat a liquid that would be used to power up a turbine which in turn would generate electricity. That would be the only venue I see as possible. Althougth quite a bit of research would need to be done to adapt curent systems to zero gravity.

As for the transmission, we have a bigger problem. Running wires is definatly the best way to transport power. But running a wire from space to earth is not really practicle to say the least!

As for transmitting power wirelessly, it is not really optimum. You have power lost that are extrememly high (I don't have the numbers at hand, but I think it was between 60% to 80%, but don't quote me on that one). Beside, anyone who played simCity knows that transmitting power to the earth is ... not a good idea wink.gif

QUOTE (ben-sama @ Sep 07 2006, 03:53 AM)
it'd have to be enormous to generate 'gravity' through centripetal effect, so i think these problems could be blocked out by the outside of such a large structure..
It does not need to have artificial gravity. Research has been done for the last 40 years on how to grow things and live in space and zero gravity. Its doable, it is just challenging.
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#4 Anime-Addict

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 04:53 AM

Perhaps I should clarify, by "solar farm" I do not mean for food or livestock, I am refering to "farm" for energy. Some way to "harvest" the solar radiation for useable energy. Here are my thoughts...

PhotoVoltaic cells have a limited lifespan of operation. Crystalline cells, the more expensive type, have a longer lifespan than Thin-Film, the inexpensive type. On average the Crysalline type is 7 years and the Thin-Film type 2 or 3. So cost of replacement would be enourmous, potentially self defeating.

EDIT - Monocrystalline cells are rated at 40 years working life.

There is the option of Peltier Junction (Seebeck effect). The effect is that a voltage, the thermoelectric EMF, is created in the presence of a temperature difference between two different metals or semiconductors. This causes a continuous current to flow in the conductors if they form a complete loop. The voltage created is of the order of several microvolts per degree difference. This has been sucessfully used on smaller scale space borne nuclear reactors, and terrestrial based as well. While these are smaller, and very inefficient, they have no moving parts and have a virtually unlimited lifespan. With arrays hundeds or thousands of square meters of suface the voltage adds up. The only diffuculty would be cooling the shadow side of the array. Contrary to popular opinion space is NOT cold. It is an Insulator. An endless vacume flask. You see heat is transferred in 3 ways. Convection, conduction, and radiation. In a vacume there is only radiation. The same diffucultys would apply with a phase change turbine system as well.
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#5 Bold

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 10:28 AM

QUOTE (Anime-Addict @ Sep 08 2006, 02:46 AM)
There is the option of Peltier Junction (Seebeck effect). The effect is that a voltage, the thermoelectric EMF, is created in the presence of a temperature difference between two different metals or semiconductors. This causes a continuous current to flow in the conductors if they form a complete loop. The voltage created is of the order of several microvolts per degree difference.

If I am not mistaking, you are refering to the principle used in thermocouple thermal sensors. The one problem I see is that we are talking about an extremely low current. In the range of a few micro amps if my memory is correct. So even if the temperature difference is massive (like sun exposed VS dark space) I am not sure if this process could be successfully used in a commercial application.
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#6 windfinder

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 01:47 AM

While I am by no means a physist I'll talk in general terms of logic here and maybe I'll say something remotely of interest.

1) The point of having stations in space is to have more space to collect radiation and to bypass the earth's natural barriers that filter out most of the energy.

Collecting the enegry seems easy enough, though there are obvious cost problems with creating a solar farm (of any sort), and maintaining one.

-once the energy is collected how is it going to be transmitted? If you aren't careful concentrated energy is going to just disappate and you are going to lose most of what you have collected. You could also potentially fry us all with a mismanagement of a "wireless" transmition of energy. You also have to look in to the ramifications of having the earth constantly being bombarded with even MORE concentrated radiation. Very confusing, especially when you are considering its interaction with the earth's magnetic fields.

-Isn't a solar farm on the earth much more reasonable? I've seen things that suggest that you could power the earth with a solar power of only a few square miles. Not saying this is cost effective/maintainable, but it is sure more reasonable than creating an impossible-to-maintain spacestation.

-Creating a spacestation of any size seems unreasonable. Isn't it a a billion everytime the spaceshuttle launches?

Eh, I just think that the physics/technology involved in such an endevour (if you were going to make it reasonible) is well beyond the scope of perhaps even our imagination.
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#7 Bold

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 11:04 AM

QUOTE (windfinder @ Sep 08 2006, 11:40 PM)
-Isn't a solar farm on the earth much more reasonable? I've seen things that suggest that you could power the earth with a solar power of only a few square miles. Not saying this is cost effective/maintainable, but it is sure more reasonable than creating an impossible-to-maintain spacestation.

That is definatly true and I agree with it. Solar energy as some potential. Its far from ready for larger scale implementation. But it could eventually be ready for such after a lot of research and planifications.

Don't forget that a concept is one thing, a scientific fact is another, an applied use of that science is another step and and livable managable project is yet another. Right now, we are around the first 2 for a large scale usage of solar energy.

QUOTE (windfinder @ Sep 08 2006, 11:40 PM)
-Creating a spacestation of any size seems unreasonable.  Isn't it a a billion everytime the spaceshuttle launches?
Here I disagree with you. You seem to say that space programs are not a good idea in general. Space programs are expensives. But the secondaries benifits are huge. A lot of the technologies we see as "normal and common" today are offshots from various projects/researchs related to space programs everywhere.

And you have to look at the number you just said carefully. It's not literally costing 1 billion$ everytime a shuttle lunches. That amount is the cumulative money necessary to maintain the space program divided by the number of lunches. In other words, it counts all the money necessary to pay the salaries for all the people who work all year long on the project.
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#8 windfinder

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 04:42 AM

QUOTE (Bold @ Sep 09 2006, 06:57 AM)
Here I disagree with you. You seem to say that space programs are not a good idea in general. Space programs are expensives. But the secondaries benifits are huge. A lot of the technologies we see as "normal and common" today are offshots from various projects/researchs related to space programs everywhere.


Monetary issues aside, I was refering to maintaing a spacestation for the purposes of self-reliance/energy collection, not something like the international space station. Also, your assumption that I was making comentary on the space program in general is misplaced, and just that; an assumption. I do think that the space programs that the US uses provides many useful technological advances, however, my point was that the technology needed to make orbital solar collectors a success are far from existence. My mention of money was just to give a scale of the costs (the actual numbers evade me).

http://www.nasa.gov/...huttle_faq.html

According to that its about 1/2 a billion per launch (a scalar multiple of only 2).

Futhermore: Nasa does mismanage money. Its a known fact and problem with the organization. I believe that wholeheartedly. Not saying NASA is unnecesarry, just that it needs to be revamped.

Note: This is a drunk post, please take that in to account when reading.
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#9 Anime-Addict

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:04 PM

QUOTE (windfinder @ Sep 08 2006, 09:40 PM)

-Isn't a solar farm on the earth much more reasonable? I've seen things that suggest that you could power the earth with a solar power of only a few square miles. Not saying this is cost effective/maintainable, but it is sure more reasonable than creating an impossible-to-maintain spacestation.

-Creating a spacestation of any size seems unreasonable. Isn't it a a billion everytime the spaceshuttle launches?

Eh, I just think that the physics/technology involved in such an endevour (if you were going to make it reasonible) is well beyond the scope of perhaps even our imagination.

Not so. Truly at first the idea seems nonsensical. But if you could harness that power and sent several hundred terawatts of energey to the ground in some remote location like death valley, is it really any more dangerous than our current nuculear power generators? I think if we factor in Chernoybl and TMI 1 than we have some room for even a few mistakes. But in the long run its not about energy for earth. It would provide the massive energy requirments for the "space elevator" project that looks soo appealing and possible. Then it would provide energy for a permant space installation, greatly reducing the cost of space construction, as things could be fabricated in space without costly "beefing" up of components to survive launch forces.

Transmission would be simple, Microwave tuned away from water and fats. That woul be nessasary to survive a trip through the atmosphere without severly degrading performance. A nearly identical system is used to relay tellecommunications between citys, and with several hundred, to a few thousand watts it takes a while even to heat a hotdog. Thats beacuse the frequency used does not excite water or fat, the two major components of life.

The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. With the proper interlocking safety procedures disasters can be easily avoided.
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