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Electricity infrastructure in space?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Tue Feb 01, 2005 9:52 am
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Electricity infrastructure in space? 
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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:48 am
As far as I remember the idea to provide electricity for the climber by the nanocarbontubes already has been said to be not that good way:

1. In Edwards' concept there will be a layer of epoxy around the tubes to protect them.
2. As far as I remember the people of elevator:2010 say that the amount of electricity providable this way is insufficient.

But the power source is subject to the competition - and the tubes cannot be used for sending power over distances like that from the Earth-moon-system to Mars.

Perhaps finally elevator:2010 will end up with an efficient power beaming system. In that case the commpetion will have contributed something very usefull for what is discussed here. Would be great.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 1:54 pm
Perhaps the energy we want to move, could be in an alternative form? So instead of trying to beam power, convert it into something that can be delivered (like batteries, though not, because they're inefficient too) and converted back to power. Of course, the old argument may arise, what if you did all the processing that the power was ultimately going to do, and send the finished goods instead. Factories would move off world, and so the only energy needs on terrafirma would be for social needs only.

I'm not against beaming power, but playing old devils advocate. I think we've had this discussion before on one of the other threads.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:11 pm
I have in mind the infrastructure - the energy really is required for a huge amount of production processes and it's impossible to provide electricity the conventional way via cable for moon, Mars etc. The only way to provide electricity for Earth is something like the cable of the space elevator.

It's very good to have a devil's advocate - such people are forcing improvements.

But we are trapped by distances and the requirement of cables. Beaming will save the cables. If the electricity is transmitted by laser and mirrors no cables are needed which removes the transportation costs for the cables. The installation of the infrastructure would be easier and go on faster. This would be an advantage for electricity infrastructures at the moon.

The idea to use accumulaturs and batteries I myself have had too - but it should be done over huge distances only.

What is the cause of the inefficiencies of beaming?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:40 pm
It was my understanding that there are losses involved. Though to be fair, I have no details, I just assumed it to be so, and you know what they say about assumption being the mother of ?

Why would we gather energy here, then beam it to the moon, Mars or where ever? Why not send the power gathering equipment closer to site? A solar farm on the moon, a geotherm on Mars? But if we do gather heaps of useable power from somewhere, then perhaps the gains far outweigh the losses involved. So, something like dropping cables through Jupiters magnetic field may be a sweet and viable source of energy.

Personally, I'm waiting for some bright spark to master cold fusion. Then we'll all be laughing.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:53 pm
The transportation of the equipment will be more expensive than the generation of the beam I think.

The infrastructure is based on the idea to generate electricity in space to make use of space's energy - not on Earth's surface. This idea requires a beam already - to send the electricity down to surface. Given this the electricity can be sent elsewhere too.

I never would base an electricity infrastructure for space on generation at Earth's surface.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 3:20 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
the idea to generate electricity in space to make use of space's energy - not on Earth's surface.

Why waste resources adding transmitting and receiving hardware to the generator when the generator can be easily located where you will use the power?


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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 4:44 pm
Sorry, I didn't mean that we would beam from the earths surface, that would be impractical for moon, mars etc. I meant that even beaming from Earth orbit to the moon or mars is going to have it's problems. If we're in the situation where we can build such power stations, then the additional effort to ship it closer to the moon or mars would be well worth it. There are several reasons. The moon, mars, and any other destination for the power wouldn't be relying on one power station. When mars is on the other side of the sun (or just badly aligned), they would still have power for a cup of tea ;-). The power could be used to actually propel the station to it intended operational site. Plus, might the beaming of energy around the solar system interfere with many scientific studies? dunno!

So I think energy beaming would only be useful for close quarters. Orbit to surface, or vice versa. Maybe beam to other orbital facilities, but not interplanetary. But hey, wouldn't it be great if we could just broadcast power to other places.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 4:51 pm
Ah, Campbelp2002, the powerstation may be an enormous solar array in orbit generating many gigawatts and then turning that into a tight beam of energy (microwave?) that you send down to a collection station on the surface. From there, the energy is once again converted into electricity and distributed in the useual manner.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:55 pm
What about beamed power from near space?

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 6:30 pm
Well the original question was how far could power be beamed.
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
What are the maximum distances micorwaves or laser are working efeiciently in bemaing electricity to

And specifically the idea was to generate power in space
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
it is possible to generate electricty in space

and use it somewhere else in space.
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
it is possible too to beam electricity to satellites and vehicles moving in space.

Such a scheme could work, but large heavy transmitting and receiving equipment would be needed. Possibly larger and heavier than the power generator, especially when transmitting over long distances. So why not just put the generator where you need it?

As to where losses could occur, I can think of 4 places.
1) Power cannot be converted to microwaves or laser light with 100% efficiency.
2) Microwaves and laser light cannot be converted into electricity with 100% efficiency
3) The beam spreads out with distance, requiring a wider receiver to catch all of the beam. Also, at large distances aiming the beam becomes more difficult. Any part of the beam that misses the receiver represents a loss of efficiency.
4) Absorption or scattering of the beam between the source and destination. This can be effectively ignored if the entire path is in space, but not when beaming power to the ground.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:41 pm
campbelp2002 wrote:
As to where losses could occur, I can think of 4 places.
1) Power cannot be converted to microwaves or laser light with 100% efficiency.
2) Microwaves and laser light cannot be converted into electricity with 100% efficiency
3) The beam spreads out with distance, requiring a wider receiver to catch all of the beam. Also, at large distances aiming the beam becomes more difficult. Any part of the beam that misses the receiver represents a loss of efficiency.
4) Absorption or scattering of the beam between the source and destination. This can be effectively ignored if the entire path is in space, but not when beaming power to the ground.


Which, I might add here, is why I don't particularly care for the microwave-powered-sail idea.

I also agree with campbelp2002 that, if at all possible, the generator should be located as close to the demand as possible.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Feb 11, 2005 2:09 am
If you only used the microwave sail to leave Earth then the beam never has to travel that far. Then use aerobraking or conventional rockets to slow down at the other end. After all, leaving Earth is the hardest (read highest energy) part of the whole trip.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Feb 11, 2005 10:38 am
To carry the equipment required for power generation somewhere requires equipment and propellant whereas a power beam doesn't require that equipment and propellant. So the beam saves the transportation equipment and propellant required to carry the generation equipment somewhere - it is saved for other purposes then than might be mor important (life support systems, rediation shielding hardware, robots and so on).

For this reason the beaming technology is interesting and it may be better to install the power generator in Earth's orbit and to beam the energy. That's an economic trade off not to be idscussed here but providing an evaluation of required improvements of the technology.

The generation equipment and/or the beam and the electricity infrastructure is one element only of a much bigger whole idea or project - all other technologies involved including all their costs have to be considered too before there could be a decision about beaming or not.

So it is worth to look for improvements, possibilities and opportunities.

Answer to ""3) The beam spreads out with distance, requiring a wider receiver to catch all of the beam. Also, at large distances aiming the beam becomes more difficult. Any part of the beam that misses the receiver represents a loss of efficiency.":

The question is what the cause of the spreading is. In space the cause cannot be the atmosphere but only particles of dust and gas extremly much thinner than the atmosphere. But the cause could be a lack of exactness of mirrors or lenses - and these can be improved as to be seen in the construction of telescopes and interferometers.Especially the laser beam that is used to measure moon's distance by a mirror at the moon seems to be an example of very exactly beaming at small scales at least.

It will be worth to research and develop on improvements concerning this point.

Answer to "4) Absorption or scattering of the beam between the source and destination. This can be effectively ignored if the entire path is in space, but not when beaming power to the ground."

I have in mind the distribution of electricity in space here mainly - but look at the moon: no atmosphere. Why not beaming down to its surface? The martian atmosphere is only a hundredth as thin as the earthian. The Galileian moons of Jupiter don't have atmospheres except Io (due to volcanism and much thinner than the martian one).

Are there obstacles for improvements? Of beaming technology or storage technology?

Local generation at moon, Mars etc. should be done only based on in-situ ressources - but this would require alot of transportation from Earth to that planets again and that will be uneconomical in the first step or the first few steps at least.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Feb 11, 2005 12:28 pm
Also, any improvements or repairs to the generation equipment would be easier if still in Earth orbit.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Feb 11, 2005 2:05 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
To carry the equipment required for power generation somewhere requires equipment and propellant whereas a power beam doesn't require that equipment and propellant.

I already addressed that
campbelp2002 wrote:
large heavy transmitting and receiving equipment would be needed. Possibly larger and heavier than the power generator.


Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
The question is what the cause of the spreading is.

It is due to the wave nature of electromagnetic radiation. The only way to make the beam tighter is to use a shorter wavelength or a larger diameter transmitting antenna (or mirror in the case of light). At the distance of the Moon it is quite feasible, if the transmitter is above the atmosphere, but Mars is just too far.


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