Monday, April 5, 2010

Energy from Space

Last week in my "Earth Hour" rant I mentioned how human technology can distort carrying capacity and make a liar of Thomas Malthus . Malthus was one of the first to suggest the idea of limits to (human) population growth. The contrary influences of disease, famine, and war were outlined in his volumes Principles of Population. Of course he was proved wrong, again and again by the ingenuity of human technology.
Remember the whole Earth Hour thing was a reminder that we need to be aware of our impact on the environment and we must cut back our use of resources. For many this is a “motherhood” issue that has spread far and wide and is now infiltrating the public conscience. I can’t disagree with many of the ideas because waste is well, wasteful.
So when an idea is floated regarding energy production that is not the typical of the conserve, wind power, nuclear and solar capture stuff that is already out there, it may be wise to listen. Today in the Globe and Mail Neil Reynolds presents such an idea that may change the energy equation for the future and us. The idea is being pushed by the National Space Society and it even has a Canadian connection. The idea involves capturing solar energy in space (via a very large solar panel array) and "beaming" it down to Earth. Check out the pictures here. Interesting idea, could be a game changer, who knows.


  1. Everything I've read about this is discouraging. Apparently, there are some technological hurdles that would seem easy to jump but only become more of a problem in implementation. Still, who knows? It's never wise to bet against human ingenuity.

  2. As I said it "could be" a game changer. I too have read a lot of the criticism, and this may not be the answer or even an answer, but none of it is really new technology and the other alternatives could be a long way off - think fusion power.

  3. Neil messed up in his article and mis-read the report.

    There is not an energy equivalent in a single square km "equal to energy contained in all known recoverable conventional oil reserves".

    The NSSO report says:
    "A single kilometer‐wide **BAND** of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today."

    You would actually need 260,000 single square km collectors to get as much energy in a year as in all conventional oil deposits. It doesn't look as encouraging as Neil thought. I already wrote Neil and he's going to correct the article.

  4. Thanks Jonathan, it did sound a bit fantastic. Looks like we'll being burning those fossil fuels for a while yet.


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