D. Paul F. Kuhlmann asked:
A Californian outfit has patented the rights to produce electricity from the Sun and transport it to Earth by high energy beams. Will this technology, if put into practice, mean that areas around the beam-down sites will be deadly? (Because of misalignment and space weather and the high microwave power?)
Also, although they have already sold futures on the market, can this system actually fly?
D. Paul F. Kuhlmann
Is wireless transmission of electricity/power practical? from @Bytor, via Twitter
Chris - I looked up which company that was. Itís Solaren Space who are a Californian based company. Sounds intriguing. They've got permission to develop this system. They want to have a satellite array out in space at about 22,000 miles out and this would have very big photo electric cells that would harness solar energy turn that into electricity which they then convert into a microwave beam. They then beam that microwave energy down to the Earth to a very big collecting dish. Their argument is that the collecting dish would be about a 2 square mile across array, so very, very big. So the energy density of the microwave beam coming in from space would be quite low. Actually, they say if an aeroplane were to fly into that, actually the amount of heating effect the aeroplane would feel from the microwaves would be less than the heating effect of an airplane just coming out from under a cloud, and being hit by sunlight. So they say that this is not a threat to birds, planes, cars, people, or anything. And the idea there is they then sum all of their energy collected by the dish back together and this could generate Ė as I say, energy at the rate of 200 megawatts which is not small, but itís also not huge either but this is just early days. The Japanese aerospace exploration industry said they're also planning something similar.
Diana - Well itís a shame. It could at least guarantee that your in-flight meal would be warm...
Chris - I don't think we can quite stretch to that!
D. Paul F. Kuhlmann asked the Naked Scientists: A Californian outfit has patented the rights to produce electricity from the Sun and transport it to Earth by high energy beams. Will this technology, if put into practice, mean that areas around the beam-down sites will be deadly? (Because of misalignment and space weather and the high microwave power?) Also, although they have already sold futures on the market, can this system actually fly? D. Paul F. Kuhlmann What do you think? D. Paul F. Kuhlmann, Mon, 6th Dec 2010
It's certainly a very seductive idea that has been going around for quite a while. I suspect if you read their patent claims in detail you will find that they are only able to patent aspects of their proposed solution, and not the overall concept.
Seems impractical and unsafe to me: Aircraft and birds flying through the beam may get cooked.
I heard about this back in the 80's. It is not a new idea. With that in mind, I'd be dismayed if the US Patent office gave a patent over the "concept", although perhaps particular aspects that weren't discussed 30 years ago might be patentable.
If such an apparatus was made...
The Russians have successfully launched a space mirror experiment ...
Interesting about the Russian mirrors.
I remember reading about the space solar power project some time back when PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) entered a contract with Solaren to beam down power by 2016. I think there is another company start up who also wish to do this. What I remember is that they chose a region outside of Fresno California to set up the antenna receiver because there is a lot of uninhabited area and there is a power substation there. The area of the antenna would be large and the energy density pretty low. I am mostly skeptical that this can be done cheaply enough to be practical. I did a quick look at saved links, but I don't know what has happened since they were published:
The Patent file is US7612284.pdf
OK. If you understand the energies involved and the patent, can you tell the effects this would have on the atmosphere, wildlife or any safety risks (including military) this operation would have for the planet?
I don't think they discussed safety protocols in the text.
I am not going to go back and read the safety protocol, but what my very rusty steel trap memory tells me is that the energy density was only a few percent of that in a standard microwave. This suggests that safety backups could run on a timetable of minutes without any real concern. There is also my tinfoil hat that I try not to wear in public. SteveFish, Fri, 10th Dec 2010
If a bird flies at about 20 miles per hour, then it would cross the centre of the beam in about 6 minutes. If the standard microwave is 1000W, then it would get a few percent of that - say 30W, divided by 10 as it's only 6 minutes. 3 Watts.
I'm lost on your calculations. How big is the beam? Is that something i skipped when looking at the patent calculations?
It is interesting to note that the patent did not state the ground area of the beam or the potential energy projected. The old Geezer is probably right - a patent suit could fail. The information we put together came from reports of best engineering scenario physics. The reality may be a beam a few sqaure miles across or a single bright spot. The potential risks of flying this program, in my mind, still outweigh the benefits of collecting the solar radiation on the ground. D. Paul F. Kuhlmann, Sat, 11th Dec 2010
I was just listening to the related podcast at the top of this page.
D. Paul F. Kuhlmann: