Re: Government hinders solar power

Date: Thu Jan 18 2001 - 12:15:00 MST

"Ross A. Finlayson" wrote:

> Which of these is the most energy and cost efficient, where cost is measured in
> capital and environmental terms? I would say nuclear power is probably the most
> efficient.

That's a rather strange thing to say. Nuke power has its niches, but
most of them lie outside of this gravity well. And since launches are
notoriously unreliable, one has to construct them outside. Pu is not
Andromeda strain, but I'd rather not have few extra tons of Pu encased
in slowly corroding structures the bottom of the oceans.
> Here's an idea, put two big concrete pilings a mile or so part. in the ocean where
> they are a quarter mile apart and hundreds of feet from the surface. Surround the

What a dinky little installation. Here's something I could pay from my cookie
jar money. (I'd wish).

> area around the two pilings with an electric chain fence to discourage alge growth
> and fish swimming into the area. Between the two pilings, hang a set of louvers

Never mind electrocorrosion.

> that swing back and forth. As the ocean current flows through, which it regularly
> will, then the kinetic energy could be converted to power. Perhaps better, have

There's a lot of energy in the tides and the surf, but the energy density,
especially peak energy density, does not make this a viable, practical option.
At least with our current materials, and means of engineering. Not to mention
coarse grain/high installation threshold.

> an algae bank above it in a bubble growing methane and burning it there for power
> to be retransformed into methane through alternate algae photosynthesis, which
> could also start air repair.

Seaborne structures are notoriously problematic, really. And if you're into
biomass for energy (why on earth? it doesn't make sense even for resources
as long as our fossils are not completely depleted), why nonaquatic biomass?
> Some people have states ideas of beaming power from space. The way this happens
> is that power is generated on the lit side of the moon using solar cells. Then
> this is beamed using high-power microwaves to those areas in the line of sight
> where it is required. Drawback: misaligned microwave cooks area.

Photovoltaical satellites are actually great, the problem is that you can't
make them from terrestrial material as long as the launch costs and ecological
impacts of launches stay within an order of magnitude of state of the art (to
break this mere economies of scale won't do). So you have to wait for this
until you can mine the Moon (NEA have to much delta vee and too much latency
for teleoperation to be for much use). So there's a very high technological
threshold for that scheme, as seen from here and now (Jan 2001).

Btw: if you look at the power density, it is not an issue. But you *could*
focus the power to high fluxes for special uses, for instance such as a
missile shield (or nuking cities instead of just lunch). But of course the
problem set shifts when your tech is high enough to have that much
hardware in the sky.

> We're talking about electrical equipment, I wonder what the order is in terms of
> consumption of these products: green pc, green monitor, iron, electric stovetop
> range, electric furnace, stereo, large television, 100W light bulb, dishwasher,
> microwave. These are some typical home products.

I think an order of magnitude improvement on power consumption to a typical
U.S. household should be very attainable without paying a too hefty toll.
The first thing to start with would do with insulation, passive solar and
heat exchangers in the ventilation pathways. But currently fossils are too
cheap for that, at least in the U.S.
> The price cap on power sounds kind of socialist or fascist. It could probably use
> some reregulation.

I think we should develop a more pragmatic attitude: whatever makes sense
(on the *long* run) should gets done, whatever the motivation. Free markets
or state regulations should be used, whatever fits best for the current task.
> I think if the use nuclear power were tripled or perhaps quadrupled in the United
> States, and the rollout of superconductor in products and local links to increase
> efficiency were done, then there would be a better situation.

As long as we don't have practical room temperature superconductors their
use is utterly nonviable. In any case, I'm rather fond of micrograin/grassroot
solutions to the faux "energy crisis", because it shifts the power balance
to individuals and small groups of individuals. In a cliche, power to the people.

Nukes are really really a nonsolution to a nonproblem at best, a problem
on their own at worst.

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