free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 33. LUNAR SOLAR POWER (LSP)

Friday, August 19, 2005


Peak oil doomers compare humans to yeast multiplying inside a sealed petri dish. Our population must bloom, peak and crash, because oil, natural gas, coal and even nuclear fuel must all eventually run out. This view neglects the possibility of tapping high-power energy flows outside the "petri dish". Lunar Solar Power (LSP) is one such system.

The Concept (click to enlarge):

"It is technically and economically feasible to provide at least 100,000 GWe of solar electric energy from facilities on the Moon. The Lunar Solar Power (LSP) System can supply to Earth power that is independent of the biosphere and does not introduce CO2, ash, or other material wastes into the biosphere. Inexhaustible new net electrical energy provided by the LSP System enables the creation of new net material wealth on Earth that is decoupled from the biosphere. Given adequate clean electric power, humanity's material needs can be acquired from common resources and recycled without the use of depletable fuels [4, 5]. LSP power increases the ability of tomorrow's generations to meet tomorrow's needs, and enables humanity to move beyond simply attempting to sustain itself within the biosphere to nurturing the biosphere."Source

2003 Congressional Testimony on this idea:
"Like hydroelectric dams, every power receiver on Earth can be an engine of clean economic growth. Gross World Product can increase a factor of 10. The average annual per capita income of Developing Nations can increase from today's $2,500 to ~$20,000. Economically driven emigrations, such as from Mexico and Central America to the United States, will gradually decrease.

Increasingly wealthy Developing Nations will generate new and rapidly growing markets for American goods and services. Lunar power can generate hydrogen to fuel cars at low cost and with no release of greenhouse gases. United States payments to other nations for oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and commodities such as fertilizer will decrease. LSP industries will establish new, high-value American jobs. LSP will generate major investment opportunities for Americans. The average American income could increase from today's ~$35,000/y-person to more than $150,000/y-person.

By 2050, the LSP System would allow all human societies to prosper while nurturing rather than consuming the biosphere."Source


At Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 11:04:00 AM PDT, Blogger James said...

Another one of those technologies that, in spite of it being in its infancy, deserves closer attention and research money. The payoff of hitting a home run here would be immense!

At Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:19:00 PM PST, Anonymous Thomas said...

JD, I agree with you on many subjects, but why, oh why, would you want to bounce sunlight of the moon onto Earth when there's plenty of sunlight coming directly from the sun to Earth?!?

You clearly need some way of converting the electromagnetic energy of the photons into usable form, most likely electricity.

You would have to either 1) install photovoltaics on the moon and then beam the power to Earth through microwaves (or whatever), or 2) reflect the sunlight in which case you still need photovoltaics here on Earth.

Aren't you just going across the stream to get water?


ps. in his excellent book, Entering Space, former NASA engineer Robert Zubrin makes a good case of why power producing satellites in Low Earth Orbit is a non-starter. It's not the same, but I guess much of the same logic applies. (Robert Zubrin masterminded what is now the basis of NASA's base scenario for going to Mars)

At Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:57:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Please read Criswell's material carefully. Read the file I referenced, and search for Criswell's name on google. He has already answered many of the questions you raise.

The main problems with solar energy on the earth are intermittency, land consumption, energy storage and transmission losses. If those problems can be ameliorated, terrestrial solar will be a lot more powerful.

Someday, though, we will need extra-terrestrial power in order to continue growth and nurture the earth's environment.

At Thursday, November 17, 2005 at 10:59:00 AM PST, Anonymous Thomas said...

I apologize for not taking the time to read all the background, which I still haven't (but I will)

Let me explain my why I'm coming down on LSP, which was not at all clear from my previous post.

The fact that solar power is only available in day-time is a drawback, but not an essential drawback. Power consumption during daytime is roughly twice as high as during the night, especially in regions with high air-conditioning demand. These regions mostly coincide with regions with high solar input. In fact, solar input is in perfect sync with power demand for air-conditioning and daytime industry. (See this project on solar collectors in the Mojave desert: This project has now been signed and approved)

Yes, terrestrial solar power (TSP) will most likely never supply 100% of our energy needs, but it doesn't have to. There are many other (renewable) sources that can complement solar power.

I probably shouldn't come down on LSP, because it's not doing any damage :-) My only fear is that it pushes solar power into the realm of science fiction, where it doesn't belong. It will be years, if not decades, before LSP can make a contribution to global energy supply, whereas you can go out and buy a solar panel tomorrow (actually, you can't 'cause the are in back stock due to recent surge in demand). I would much rather focus on the potential of TSP because it's a source of energy here and now, where I see the biggest challenges. But, it's your blog so I promise not to comment LSP anymore.



ps. I'm very much intrigued by subjects like LSP myself. I too see Earth as no more than the cradle of humanity. We will conquer space, eventually.

At Friday, November 18, 2005 at 5:47:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Thomas, you're absolutely right about driving air-conditioning with solar. That's a great idea, and I expect it to take off in the coming years.

LSP is a mid/long-range idea, and is really the only sustainable option available (right now) for base power. The only other path we have for future base load is breeder nuclear, and that has a lot of negatives, like proliferation, plutonium, and ecological damage due to massive scale mining.

The key question for the long-term is this: What we will use to provide base power when all fossil fuel is exhausted?

At Sunday, November 20, 2005 at 2:42:00 PM PST, Anonymous Thomas said...

I don't think we need conventional "base load" power at all in the future. As a hobby, I'm currently working on a scheme for satisfying 80-100% of our energy need with renewable energy. All we need, is to organise our energy consumption a little differently.

Most renewable energy sources are perceived as intermittent and unreliable when viewed upon from a local perspective. However, if you consider entire regions, such as USA or Europe, there’s always wind and sunshine (except at night ;-)) somewhere. By interconnecting a region with an electrical super-highway, electricity can be moved from places with excess production to places with power shortage at low energy cost via e.g. HVDC lines (google: ‘hvdc shanghai’). Every country/state/county would have installed capacity to meet average consumption, but peak production would be 2-3 times higher (rule of thumb for wind energy).

Plug-in-hybrids or electrical vehicles would serve as storage/buffer, charging in times of excess and possible sending power the other way if needed. This mechanism would be controlled e.g. by a price signal superimposed on the AC frequency. Battery technology is much better than most people think, a fact I only just realised about a month ago after reading this article: (google: ‘anb zev’).

In the future, if we get most of our energy from renewable sources, our primary energy sources would be electrical, not fossil. This also means that e.g. heating will be done by means of electricity (heat pumps). Heat energy (and cold for air conditioning) can be stored very easily. The effect would be that the ‘inelastic’ power demand (tv, cooking, lights, etc.) would only constitute a fraction of the total power demand. The remaining power demand can be satisfied whenever the price is right.

The beauty of this scheme is that it requires no new infrastructure (except the power superhighways) (unlike the hyped-up ‘hydrogen economy’ which will never happen: top article (E17)) and can happen very gradually over time. There is no chicken-egg problem because it uses a beefed up version of the existing power grid.

There are other elements to my vision of the future, but I’ve already taken up too much space.

If you would like to know more about this, send me an email at renewablefuture at gmail dot com


At Friday, July 31, 2009 at 2:01:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Michael Hebert said...

Yup, a brilliant solution, putting the earth in a microwave oven... I'd love to see the environmental impact study of that technology!

Before we start frying the earth in a bath of microwaves, and literally putting all of our energy nest eggs in one huge easy target for terrorists to attack, what about (1) lowering the population growth through planet-wide education of women, (2) a truly just democracy everywhere, and (3) maximizing efficiency and reducing waste at all levels, including the worst two evils of human creation, war and worship at the alter of corporate capitalism?

- Michael Hebert
Baton Rouge, LA USA

At Friday, April 16, 2010 at 8:32:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Neveos said...

Guys, the lunar bases and solar cells can be manufactured from the surface of the moon, literally. So, the bases are actually self-replicating... period. It isn't science fiction, it is immediately possible. Moon landings were science fiction, but we got off our asses and did it.

@Michael Hebert:
Infinite electrical energy encourages world peace, and reduces corporate crime. Difficulty to act due to a "lack of resources" becomes easily scrutinized.


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