Solar Or Wind Power? Why Not Both?

Using satellites to produce energy could eliminate the need for other power sources but how do you get the energy back to earth? Beam it.

This idea has been around for a while but it could have profound impacts that aren’t well understood. I find these kinds of stories fascinating and I think they relate to the discussions we have here.

Questions that aren’t addressed here are what effect would this have on climate? Yes, it could obviate the need for new sources of power but what about the effects of the beam itself? What about transmission lines and who would control it once it gets here? No doubt it would be controlled by some megacorporation if past history is any guide.

Other practical questions are how do you protect such a large object from space debris? What would such an object do to the night sky?

Solar Or Wind Power? Why Not Both?
Discovery News



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  1. Devin Avatar

    The question isn’t just how do you protect it from debris but is also how do you protect an orbiting object from foreign threats? That’s a lot of money and public reliance put into this type of energy that would be very exposed to wealthy and educated enemies.

    Wind and solar plants are at risk to terrorist plots but have the advantage of being on sovereign soil and they can be physically protected.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I think that one thing that could reduce such terrorist threat would be to make sure that there was equitable control of such a resource. If everyone benefitted from such a program then megacorporations couldn’t hold power over entire nations like they do now. Look at places like Nigeria for that kind of model.

      I doubt anything like this would be likely in my lifetime but it could be a great equalizer to make power available for low prices to nearly anyone who wants it. That whole drill baby drill argument might disappear.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      All centralized power schemes are subject to both accidental and planned catastrophic failure — terrorist attacks.

      Unfortunately, our political elite worries about terrorists when it is politically useful for them to do so.

  2. Nathan Hobbs Avatar
    Nathan Hobbs

    No energy source is free, just imagine the tremendous amount of resources that would have to be expended to put a device such as this in the sky. It would be a interesting comparison to look at the total weight of this device in space and compare it to the amount of Co2 that is emitted during the launch of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of space rockets required. A sail with a surface area of 5280 miles across in the sky would be a new addition to the sky. It would look like a second sun. Would it disorient animals that use the sun to navigate?

    It is great to dream big, but technologies like this are still so far out they are nothing more than a scifi fantasy. Even the authors of the paper admit they made “practically no allowance for engineering difficulties”

    What we really need to do is recognize the immediate need to reduce our per capita consumption of energy. All of these new wind towers, solar plants, coal plants, nuclear plants and space energy stations are band aids on the real problem at hand. Man needs to realize that the earth is only willing to grant him so many watts with which to live his life.

    Imagine if we found a way with which to half our current consumption of power in america. That challenge seems more feasible to me right now than a 5280 square mile space sail.

  3. Nancy Avatar

    +The main shortfall of this approach is that over the millions of miles between the satellite and Earth, even the tightest laser beam would spread out and lose a lot of its original energy. While most of the technology to create the satellite already exists, a more focused laser would be necessary, said Schulze-Makuch+

    I gotta ask, why would anyone (other than a big corporation) be contemplating this, when the technology is already available and in use, on a much smaller scale? It just needs to be promoted and marketed so its affordable to everyone willing to get off the “oil teat”

  4. monty Avatar

    The above discussion is way above my head. It’s “Buck Rogers technology that may be decades away”! The simpler solution would be for humans to live on the interest of our natural resouce bank account. But this would require that humans act in a rational manner so on 2nd thought maybe Buck Rogers technology is our only hope!


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole